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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of May 13, 2013

Gov. Jay Nixon both praised and criticized Missouri's General Assembly for its 2013 session.

At a news conference just one-half-hour after the legislature's adjournment, Nixon attacked lawmakers for failing to pass his call for expanding Medicaid health care coverage and cutting back on tax credits for real estate developers.

But he also praised the legislature for addressing the state's bankrupt fund for covering the health costs of workers re-injured on the job and for passing a balanced budget.

In response to a question about the legislature's rejection of his campaign finance regulation call, Nixon reaffirmed his threat made in January that he would support an initiative petition campaign to put before the voters a plan to reinstate campaign contribution limits.

Nixon also suggested that lawmakers will have a busy time for their September veto session when they take up bills vetoed by the governor.

Nixon did not cite any specific bill, but he attacked the legislature's tax-cut package that legislative staff have estimated could take more than $600 million per year out of the state's budget.

The legislative session has officially come to an end, and House leadership cannot agree on how well the session went.

House Speaker Tim Jones,R-Eureka, said he considers the session a huge success.

"It was a session of historic accomplishments and substantive reforms," Jones said.

Jones touted an income tax cut, fixing the second injury fund, and protecting from what he called "government overreach."

Minority Floor Leader Jacob Hummel, D-St. Louis, called the session an abject failure.

"The Speaker touted his three Es. Clearly we had three Es. They just happened to be extremism, extremism, extremism," Hummel said.

Hummel said he considered the session a failure when Medicaid died weeks ago.

Two of the 2013 legislative session's biggest issues were formally sent to the graveyard by the Senate in the opening hours of the final day.

First up in the Senate was the proposal to submit to voters a sales tax increase for transportation. After one-half hour of complaints against colleagues who had filibustered the idea, the measure's sponsor conceded defeat and put the measure aside Friday morning.

Then came the package of tax breaks for businesses that had been stalled by demands in the Senate for the House to accept cuts in other tax breaks for real estate developers.

That measure got about an hour of debate before it also got put aside.

The House-passed business tax-cut measure included tax breaks for freight forwarders of international cargo (the "China Hub" idea) and extending tax breaks for purchase of large tracts of urban property for development (the land assemblage measure for a St. Louis developer).


Hundreds of bags line the steps of Missouri's Capitol as a protest on Medicaid

As lawmakers worked into the evening hours Thursday, thousands of white paper bags lined the south steps of the Capitol building.

The bags weren't trash. They were a protest.

Several groups arranged 1,500 bags along the steps in what they say was a vigil to the hundreds of people who they say will die this year because lawmakers voted not to expand Missouri's Medicaid program as part of the federal health care law. The groups, led by the left-leaning Progress Missouri, are planning to light candles within the bags later Thursday as part of a vigil and small rally. 

The Republican-controlled legislature voted down proposals to expand the state's Medicaid program several times during this year's session. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon barnstromed towns small and large through the state meeting with hospitals and business groups to try to sell the economic benefits of the expansion. He met with lawmakers from both the House and Senate behind closed doors, but the majorities ultimately rejected his proposal.

Republicans said repeatedly that going through with the expansion would cause Missouri's Medicaid expense to skyrocket, because the federal law calls for the state to pay some of the costs after 2017.

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After years of negotiation about how to satisfy millions of dollars in payments owed to injured workers, Missouri lawmakers gave final approval Thursday to legislation making major changes to the state's Second Injury Fund.

In a broadly bipartisan vote, the House voted to send the package to Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. Nixon has vetoed Second Injury Fund proposals in the past.

The biggest change the legislation makes is that it moves claims made by workers who contract on-the-job diseases from the Second Injury Fund to the state's worker's compensation system. Victims of nine specific occupational diseases would receive increased workers' compensation payments.

Claims made by mesothelioma victims would also be taken out of the Second Injury Fund. Mesothelioma victims would be eligible to receive awards in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle praised the legislation as an acceptable compromise. But a few critics, such as House Minority Leader Jacob Hummel, D-St. Louis, said that juries should set awards in toxic disease cases, not lawmakers.

"I will not support any bill that puts a price on someone's life when they've worked all their lives and been slowly poisoned," Hummel said, his voice cracking with emotion.

In a statement after the House vote, Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster and Treasurer Clint Zwiefel praised the legislation.

"Missourians needed a solution that provided two things, fiscal responsibility and protection for employees who are injured at work through no fault of their own," said Zwiefel, a Democrat. "(The bill) puts us on a path to achieve this and allows us to begin the work we need to do to protect Missouri’s workers."

Koster said the Second Injury Fund currently owes $32 million in payments to 1,200 workers statewide.

If Nixon signs the measure, it would take effect on Jan. 1.

The Missouri House sent legislation to the governor Thursday which would limit the amount of places where welfare recipients can use their electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards.

Under the measure welfare recipients would be unable to use their cards at casinos, liquor stores, strip clubs and other adult-oriented establishments.

Sponsor Rep. Casey Guernsey, R-Bethany, said the bill will help prevent fraud, but Rep. Genise Montecillo, D-St. Louis County, said it is unfair to those using EBT cards in those places strictly for food.

The bill also creates stricter punishments for those spending welfare benefits on the wrong items.

Rep. Gail McCann Beatty, D-Jackson County, said the legislature constantly tries to make life more difficult for the poor.

"We constantly in this chamber decide we want to punish people who need help, there's nothing wrong with needing help," McCann Beatty said.

Even though the issue of Medicaid expansion has been declared dead this session and has been voted down numerous times, the Missouri Senate has agreed to study the issue further.

The Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would extend the termination deadline of the "Ticket to Work" program to 2019. That program allows people with low-wage jobs without health care coverage to stay on Medicaid by disregarding part of their salaries.

An amendment to the bill would create a joint committee tasked with exploring the impact of Medicaid expansion between the end of this session and the start of the 2014 session.

"I think it's very important that we begin to have that discussion on Medicaid expansion," said Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City. "I know it's not going to happen within the next 48 hours, but we really need to begin to have the discussion because we have too many people -- 260,000 people -- that are uninsured."

The Senate passed the bill by a 32-0 vote.

With less than 48 hours left in the session, the bill still requires another vote by the House. In a version approved by the House earlier this session, representatives approved a provision that would establish the joint committee.

If passed, it will head to the governor's desk.

The state Senate sent a bill to the governor’s desk Wednesday that would ban the Department of Revenue from scanning or storing personal documents required for driver’s licenses and concealed carry permits.

The bill is part of a response to the controversy that originated when state lawmakers learned the Missouri State Highway Patrol sent documents scanned during the concealed carry permit process to the U.S. Social Security Administration. Data on more than 160,000 Missourians was included in the leak. The bill also prohibits the department from sharing a list of permit holders with the federal government.

The House had previously stripped out a provision that would have put the responsibility of issuing concealed carry permits on county sheriff’s offices instead of the Revenue Department.

Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit, said the House wanted to do that in a different bill.

“They’re trying to move (the concealed carry process) to the sheriff’s through a different bill,” Kraus said.

Since the news of the leak emerged, the department has come under fire for collecting and sharing information and had its budget slashed by the Missouri legislature. Gov. Jay Nixon initially denied any database with concealed carry information existed but the Highway Patrol confirmed the release of the information to the Social Social Adminstration. The agnecy has said it was never able to access the information provided.

The bill passed by a vote of 25-9.

Missouri lawmakers passed a bill the governor that would hold St. Louis educators accountable for inefficiency in the classroom, on a level that is on par with the rest of the state's school districts.

This provision gives teachers a month to alter bad habits instead of a full semester before being terminated for incompetency.

Sen. Scott Sifton, D-St. Louis County, said all 519 other school districts in Missouri already use this policy.

"Right now it takes 90 days for the city of St. Louis, everywhere else it takes 30 days," Sifton said.

In addition to this change for St. Louis school personnel, the measure changes the time frame in which newly unaccredited school districts must review their governing boards.

The final provision requires all State Board of Education meetings on accreditation to be public and have notices publishing the location, time and date.

Injured workers awarded payments from the state’s troubled Second Injury Fund may begin to receive payments after a compromise to fix the fund passed the Senate early Wednesday morning.

The fund, which compensates workers who have a second injury at work that results in either a permanent or partial disability, had a shortfall of $28.1 million in January, according to the state auditor.

In March, more than 1,000 people who were awarded settlements from the Second Injury Fund had their payments withheld because the fund does not have enough money to meet its commitments.

The fix would raise the surcharge paid by businesses from 3 percent to 6 percent and limit the types of injuries that would be covered by the Second Injury Fund. The bill also provides for several occupational diseases to be covered under workers’ compensation and creates a separate, optional state fund that employers can pay into to cover mesothelioma.

The House must pass the bill before sending it to the desk of Gov. Jay Nixon. The Associated Press reported that Nixon has said he will sign the bill.

Lawmakers in Missouri's Capitol have approved a ballot measure that would forever guarantee the right to engage in farming and ranching in the state.

Supporters say the right to farm needs to be part of the state constitution so that out-of-state groups won't push through laws that hurt farmers.

But some lawmakers, like Sen. Rob Schaaf, say the measure could be a safety risk.

Schaaf says farm animals are increasingly being fed antibiotics and that that's creating a new wave of food poisoning "super bugs". He says putting a right to farm in Constitution could make it harder for the state to stop those super bugs, potentially putting consumers in danger.

"The agricultural industry is somewhat blind to this problem and they're looking at it from a financial point of view more than a public health point of view," said Schaaf, R-St. Joseph.

But the right-to-farm measure does have a limit: city governments would still be able to regulate farming practices. And Republican Senator Mike Parson says that is a carefully negotiated comprise that has the support of most interest groups on the issue.

Gov. Jay Nixon struck down a bill Tuesday that would have taken away a tax credit for low-income seniors and brought more than $50 million to the state budget.

Nixon, a Democrat, had originally supported the bill, saying it was a crucial piece the revenue to fund his budget proposal for the coming year. Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, had sponsored the measure, making a similar argument.

But last month, as the bill was clearing its final hurdles in the legislature, Nixon abruptly changed his position and said he would veto the measure unless it was part of a broader tax credit reform bill. The governor reiterated that position in his veto message on Tuesday.

“Effective tax credit reform must be broad-based and designed to ensure that all tax credit programs provide a strong return for taxpayers, our communities and our economy,” Nixon said in his veto message. “Senate Bill No. 350 does not constitute comprehensive tax credit reform.”

A larger tax credit reform bill is still moving in the legislature. But that measure is currently in negotiations between the two chambers and its unclear whether there is enough time for a final compromise to pass before the legislative session ends Friday evening.

Nixon's veto appears to put in jeopardy funding for the state's Kids First program, which supports young children with disabilities. In the budget they approved last week, lawmakers planned to fund that program from the money saved by cutting the renters' tax credit.

"I don't know why he would veto (SB 350) when he knows there's a tax credit bill coming," said Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia.

But Schaefer said that Nixon does have some flexibility to fund the Kids First program with other budget dollars, even if the larger tax credit bill doesn't pass.

Missouri's Medicaid program got a new leader Tuesday when Director Ian McCaslin was replaced as lawmakers approach the end of their session without approving a federally offered expansion of the program.

According to an email sent out to Department of Social Services workers, McCaslin has been replaced as head of the MoHealthNet Division, with Jennifer Tidball taking over as interim director. She is currently the director of the department's financial and administrative services division.

It remains unclear whether McCaslin was fired or whether he resigned. When reached on the phone, McCaslin refused to answer any questions about his status with the Medicaid program. 

"I think you'd have to speak to the department about that," McCaslin said before hanging up. Several legislative sources speculated that McCaslin had been fired from the position.

Rep. Jay Barnes sponsored legislation this year to expand the state's Medicaid program as part of the federal health care law. In an interview Tuesday afternoon, Barnes said McCaslin had never testified in support of legislation to modify the Medicaid program, even though Gov. Jay Nixon has been fiercely lobbying for the expansion.

Barnes said he didn't think McCaslin's absence would make it harder to craft future Medicaid legislation.

"Graveyards are full of indispensable men and the world moved on," said Barnes, R-Jefferson City. "His expertise will certainly be missed. But it doesn't mean that it will be impossible to transform Missouri Medicaid."

A spokesman for the department confirmed late Tuesday that Tidball is the interim director but did not have any other comment on the change.

State senators stalled on an effort to put a sales tax for transportation projects on the Missouri ballot, but the bill sponsor is still optimistic the measure will be voted on before the legislative session ends in a few days.

The Missouri House passed the Senate-originated measure which would give voters the choice to increase the sales tax by one cent over 10 years to fund improvements to the state's highway system and other transportation projects earlier in the day. The hike would have to be voted on again every 10 years and food items are exempt from the tax.

Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair, sponsored the measure and said there are twice as many roads in Missouri as there are in Illinois and Kansas combined, but Missouri receives less funding than both.

Rep. Rory Ellinger, D-St. Louis County, said the tax increase would burden the elderly and poor more than anyone.

"The state as a whole may prosper, but it should not be on the backs of the poor or elderly," Ellinger said.

Hinson said he understood Ellinger's concerns, but the tax would greatly benefit the poor and elderly by improving and expanding public transportation.

Senate bill sponsor Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said despite Tuesday night's outcome, he thinks the issue will come up again before the session ends Friday after he works with those senators concerned with the measure.

"I still believe and many people of this body still believe that there's a point in time where you let citizens decide what they want to do," Kehoe said.

The measure must survive a vote in the Senate before it can make the Missouri ballot, and legislature has until 6 p.m. Friday to do so.

In the final days of the Missouri legislative session, the Senate's president pro tem declared several big issue bills dead but expressed optimism with how the session went.

Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles County, said the criminal code will not be taken up any further this session because there is not enough time to go over the most important parts of the code. He also said voter ID is dead for the session.

"We wanted to have a functional Senate and really different way of doing business that demonstrates that we're serious about taking care of the problems that are afflicting this state," Dempsey said. "And we've done that."

A day after Missouri lawmakers sent him a bill that would overhaul the state's tax system, Gov. Jay Nixon said he had major concerns with the legislation and suggested he would veto the measure.

"At this time, certainly, I'm not looking at it with an eye to add it the structure of Missouri government," Nixon said at a press conference Friday, May 10.

The legislation, which the House passed to the governor's desk Thursday, May 9, would cut taxes for individuals, corporations and small businesses

The tax-cut plan would reduce the state's top individual income tax rate by a half of a percent over the next ten years. The plan would also allow small business owners who deduct their business income on their individual returns to deduct 50 percent of their business income. The plan would also reduce the state's corporate tax rate from 6.25 percent to 3.25 percent over the next ten years.

"I have serious concerns about a tax bill yesterday evening," Nixon said Friday. "Taking more than 800 million dollars out of our state budget ... is not a fiscally responsible approach."

Bill sponsor Rep. T.J. Berry, R-Kearney, had a more optimistic outlook during Thursday's debate.

"Ten years down the line we will have less taxes and more revenue, that's where I see us," Berry said.

While Nixon and House Democrats said the tax cuts could leave a more than $800 million hole in the state budget, legislative staff estimates are not as drastic, and state that the proposed cuts could amount to as much as a $692 million per year hole in the state's coffers.

Missouri's House send the governor measures to eliminate tax breaks for lower income, but to provide tax breaks for businesses and those getting business income.

House action came shortly after they passed the final version of the state's $25 billion operating budget for the next fiscal year that begins July 1.

Legislative staff estimate elimination of tax credits for lower income elderly and disabled home renters will save the state $57 million per year.

Legislative staff offered estimates for the tax-cut bill that ranged as high as $692 million per year. In addition to business tax cuts, the measure would provide exemptions individuals' income that comes from businesses and would drop the income tax rate.

Extra tax revenue would come from expanding the state's sales tax to cover sales conducted on Internet.

The House vote fell short of the two-thirds vote that would be necessary to override a governor's veto.

Gov. Jay Nixon had criticized a larger tax cut bill that had been pending before the legislature.


The Missouri House approved the state’s budget Thursday, despite threats from Gov. Jay Nixon that cuts to the Department of Revenue would lead him to lay off staff in the agency.

But Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, said Nixon would be solely to blame for anyone put out of a job.

“His threat yesterday is disgusting, it’s dishonest, and it’s deplorable,” Barnes said. “It’s an insult to the intelligence of all Missourians.”

Republican budget leaders cut the department’s budget by 1/3, they said the cuts will allow further investigation into the department’s sharing of gun owner’s private information with the federal government through its new licensing procedure.

Rep. Rick Stream, R-St. Louis County, said Thursday that lawmakers would send a letter to Nixon stating their intent to restore the last four months of the department’s funding once they reconvene next year.

But House Democrats said they support Nixon’s decision to act on the notion that the budget constitutes a full-year’s worth of funding. They said it would be too big of a gamble to rely on the General Assembly to pass a supplemental budget fast enough so as to not put sales taxes and people’s ability to obtain driver’s licenses at risk.

The Senate is now voting on the budget proposals and has given its approval to about half of them.

With just days left in the legislative session, the Missouri House passed a measure Thursday that would put $1.2 billion of bond money into state building upgrades if voters approve.

House members voted 136-23 in favor of a bond measure to repair and upgrade the buildings. If it's approved by the legislature the bond measure would on Missouri's ballot in November 2014.

Republican House Speaker Tim Jones said the bond money would help build new college classrooms, upgrade the state's mental hospital and that it would create much-needed construction jobs throughout Missouri.

"This is an opportunity of a generation," said Jones, R-Eureka. "Missourians will reap deep dividends."

Jones sponsored the bill, but he said that one the bill's Democratic supporters, Rep. Chris Kelly, was influential in getting the speaker and most House members to support the measure. Kelly, D-Columbia, was absent for Thursdays vote. Kelly's staff confirmed that he was still recovering from chest pains that had put him in the hospital earlier this week.

But whether the bond measure will advance through the legislature this year is still uncertain. About a week remains in the regular legislative session as the measure moves to the Senate for the first time. Jones acknowledged that time is running short, but he said that even if it does not pass this year, he expects it will move more quickly next year and still be on the November 2014 ballot.

Despite bipartisan support for the measure, the Missouri House rejected a bill creating stricter evaluations for school principals and administrators.

Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, sponsored the bill in the Missouri House, which failed with a 76-82 vote.

Rep. Steve Webb, D-St. Louis County, said during his past 5 years in the legislature, the legislature has done "nothing significant" about the education system.

"Let's put a letter grade on this legislature. It's been an F," Webb said.

Sponsor Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, stood on the sidelines of the chamber during debate and votes. She tried to persuade members of the House to vote for the bill, but was eventually escorted from the chamber after Rep. Keith English, R-St. Louis County, yelled at her to stop threatening people and leave.

A sign outside the door of Rep. Doug Funderburk, a Republican who voted for HB 436

Missouri's House passed a bill to the governor's desk that would make federal firearm laws unenforceable in the state Wednesday night.

The measure would also allow certain employees in schools to carry concealed weapons and would make the minimum age to obtain a concealed carry permit 19 instead of 21.

Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis County, deemed the bill "more NRA-sponsored legislation.”

"This is a serious problem around the country and yet Missouri is a laughing stock because all we do is deal with bills that allow for availability of firearms," Newman said.

The bill needs to be signed by Gov. Jay Nixon before becoming law.


Missouri senators passed a House bill Wednesday to cut taxes for individuals, corporations and small businesses after Democrats led a late-night filibuster on Tuesday.

The plan is similar to a Senate bill passed in March, but it does not include a sales tax hike. Gov. Jay Nixon said in March he would veto a tax overhaul including a sales tax hike because it would hurt the poor, who tend to pay a larger share of their income toward sales taxes.

The plan would reduce the state's top individual income tax rate by a half of a percent over the next ten years. The plan would also allow small business owners who deduct their business income on their individual returns to deduct 50 percent of their business income. The plan would also reduce the state's corporate tax rate from 6.25 percent to 3.25 percent over the next ten years.

Throughout the periods of implementation, state revenues would have to increase by $100 million from the previous year for the tax cutting provisions to take effect. Legislative researchers estimate the plan could reduce state revenues by $700 million annually when fully implemented.

Missouri's Commissioner of Administration Doug Nelson said he is being blocked from information of who tried to access a website from a Missouri House computer that contains the names of concealed carry owners in Missouri.

When asked twice if the Office of Administration would provide the press with the same information the office had requested, Nelson did not guarantee the information would be shared.

"We would have to review the request," Nelson said.

Nelson said House Chief Clerk Adam Crumbliss responded to OA's request with the House's own open record request to the Office of Administration.

Nelson said in the House's response to OA's request, Crumbliss said the records would not be provided because they are exempt under Missouri's Sunshine law.

Missouri lawmakers passed an appropriations bill Wednesday that gives Missouri state parks $24 million.

The measure would allocate funding for parks to improve surface water conditions and for the renovation and maintenance of historic sites.

Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, said the state should not give this much money to parks since tax money already gives them $80 million per year.

"On one hand, they're telling us that they can't manage what they have," Silvey said. "Then on the other hand, they're saying we need to give them more land."

Silvey also said the $24 million would be better spent funding higher education facilities, which he said deserves more funding.

Silvey went through a long list of higher education projects that were not fully funded and have not been completed.

"Missouri Southern State Health Sciences building--18.9 is what we appropriated, 15.2 is what has been spent," Silvey said. "Are we going to finish that? No."

Those who spoke in support said they did not want to give more money to the higher education projects that have not been completed.

Only four Senators voted against the provision.

Gov. Jay Nixon speaks to reporters Wednesday, May 8, about the 2014 budget.

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon threatened to cut staff and reduce services Wednesday unless state lawmakers took another look at their approved budget.

Nixon issued the threat a day after a conference committee approved budget proposals that would only fund the state departments responsible for printing and issuing licenses for motor vehicles for two-thirds of the year.

"They leave me no choice," Nixon said. "I will reduce staff and services accordingly, including making the necessary layoffs effective July 1."

The conference committee, which is made up of House and Senate members, approved an almost $25 billion budget that goes into effect July 1. That budget would fund the state Division of Motor Vehicles and a division of the Office of Administration for eight months. Nixon called the committee-approved cuts "unprecedented" and "irresponsible."

Nixon refused to answer any questions after Wednesday's press conference and did not specify the department from which staff would be cut.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said Nixon's call for cutting staff was "unnecessary."

"There is absolutely no reason for the governor to layoff (staff)," said Schaefer, R-Columbia. "If he wants to do that, there's nothing I can do about that, it's not my call."

Schaefer said the budget conference committee would not meet again on the issue.

Lawmakers have until Friday to pass a budget to the governor.

The Missouri Senate is poised to vote on a measure that some lawmakers think will bring more jobs to the state, but others think could bust the state's budget.

A vote is expected on a massive tax overhaul bill Wednesday. The measure would decrease both corporate and personal income tax rates in phases over the next 10 years.

Opposing Democrats filibustered the bill for several hours Tuesday night. Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Jackson County, said Republicans threatened the Democrats into ending the filibuster.

"The message that we received was that if we did not allow this to come through to a vote eventually, that many of the priorities that we have been trying to defend over the last few months would be forced to a vote...photo ID was the one that was brought up front and center," Justus said.

The "photo ID" bill would require Missouri voters to have a government-issued photo ID.

Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee's Summit, said he was unaware of a forceful message toward Democrats.

"All I can tell you is I know (the photo ID bill) was taken in from the chair of the Committee, so it was put on the calendar," Kraus said.

  State tornado relief for Joplin is one vote away in the Missouri Legislature 05/07/2013

A House committee voted Tuesday to create a temporary fund to help Joplin repair streets, bridges, and roads destroyed by the 2011 tornado catastrophe.

Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, presented the bill to the House committee on Tuesday in place of the bill's sponsor, Sen. John Lamping, R-St. Louis County. Flanigan said the bill was put together specifically to help with areas in Joplin.

The House Economic Development Committee voted 22-0 on the bill that would create a temporary "Rebuild Damaged Infrastructure Program" that would expire on June 30, 2014.

The program would provide money to Missouri areas that have been declared a natural disaster by the U.S. president. The money from the program would only be used to repair infrastructure needs such as streets and roads that were damaged from that particular natural disaster.

The temporary rebuild program would be funded through current funds such as the Lewis and Clark Discovery Fund and the Missouri Health and Educational Facilities Authority Act , that would amount to about $14 million for natural disaster areas in Missouri. The money from the current funds would be transferred to the newly created rebuild program on July 1 if the bill is approved in the current session.

On a Sunday afternoon on May 11, 2011, Joplin was hit with a tornado moving 200 mph. The tornado resulted in 158 deaths and over 1,000 injured people according to the National Weather Service. The tornado is ranked as the seventh deadliest in U.S. history.

Lawmakers from both chambers in the state Capitol spent several hours Tuesday mulling over differences in their proposed budgets for next year.

The final product includes a cut of four month's worth of funding for the Department of Revenue, exactly 1/3 of its proposed budget. It comes as lawmakers continue their months-long pressuring of the department on its controversial new licensing procedure.

Republican budget leaders said extending the budget would be reconsidered at the start of next year's session when more answers are available.

But controversy arose in a press conference when lawmakers appeared to be relying on bills that hadn't yet passed, like the repeal of a renter's tax credit that Gov. Jay Nixon has said he will veto.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Kurt Schaefer said he expects Nixon to pass it because he included it in his own version of the budget earlier this year, but Nixon has stated in recent weeks he only included it as a part of a larger tax credit reform package.

"This is a request that he made for $56 million and how it would be spent," said Schaefer, R-Columbia. "He clearly indicated in his own budget proposal that he would be prepared to spend that money so I hope he won't veto the bill."

The finalized budget must be sent to the governor's desk by Friday.

On Tuesday, the House overwhelmingly gave first-round approval to Bryce's Law, which would create scholarships to help parents pay for education for special needs children, like those with autism.

The vote only came after the bill's sponsor, Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst, R-St. Louis County, announced the program would be funded by grants instead of a tax-credit.

Bryce's Law is named after Scharnhorst's late grandson, who had autism.

If approved, Scharnhorst said he will stay on it for the rest of his life to work to find grants with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to fund the program.

"I am willing to go outside this building hat in hand and beg to educate these children," Scharnhorst said.

He also said he believes these new changes could help it finally pass both chambers. However, the plan still needs one more vote in the House before going to the Senate and there's less than two weeks left in the legislative session.

The bill would name bridges after former Democratic St. Louis Congressman William "Bill" Clay and St. Louis Cardinal great Stan "The Man" Musial.

Bill sponsor Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst, R- St. Louis County, said the bill will help Musial's name live on forever.

"What a great way to honor his name, with a monument that is going to last that long" Scharnhorst said.

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, said she was elated that Bill Clay would have the honor.

"That's a man who paid tribute to the movement, with an African American community for inclusion and it is well deserved" Nasheed said.

By passing the House the bill will go to the desk of Gov. Jay Nixon for approval.

The state Senate gave first-round approval to a bill which would create a legislative committee between sessions to study the way in which elementary and secondary public schools receive state funding -- otherwise known as the “foundation formula.”

Sponsor of the measure, Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-St. Louis County, said it could bring to light some of the issues within the formula and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“If they [people of St. Louis] knew [the department] was taking $3 million away from Special School District or $11.5 million away from St. Louis Public, people would be outraged and that’s exactly what’s happened,” Schmitt said.

Schmitt said with the foundation formula underfunded, DESE took state money away from certain schools in his district, such as Kirkwood and Parkway, without approval from the legislature. He said these schools were funded mostly locally rather than from the state.

The full bill needs another vote in the Senate before heading to the House for debate.

At least four law enforcement officials will be part of a committee to investigate the controversy in which the Department of Revenue released conceal carry information of more than 160,000 Missourians to a third party.

One member is the prosecuting attorney from Stoddard County, Russ Oliver, who is responsibile for a subpoena issued to Gov. Nixon.  Oliver issued the subpoena but said he still wants to question several other high level officials on the matter.

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said he would like to turn the entire process of issuing conceal carry permits over to county sheriffs, who are also involved in the committee.  Sheriffs Stuart Miller of Audrain County and Oliver Boyer of Jefferson County are currently named as members, but more officials will be added in the coming weeks.

After declaring a lack of cooperation from the Nixon administration, Speaker of the House Tim Jones announced the creation of the committee to delve into the controvery's origin and ways to prevent further problems.

The scandal erupted when state lawmakers discovered the Highway Patrol sent conceal carry permit information to the U.S. Social Security Administration to be used for an investigation into permit carriers with mental disabilities. The breached information included data regarding over 160,000 Missourians.

"I feel it is necessary to set up the [committee] to help rebuild the public's trust," Jones said.

Jones said the committee will issue a report by September 1 on its findings.


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