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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of February 16, 2015

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, has sponsored a bill that would set a statewide standard for Uber and other similar companies. The bill would also ban local governments from setting their own regulations on ride sharing services.

"So what the bill would do is allow Uber to operate in Missouri despite the fact that you've got local governments that are trying to Balkanize the regulation of it to essentially prevent Uber from operating in Missouri," Schaefer said.

The senator's own city passed regulations on Monday that require Uber to comply with many of the same regulations taxi cab companies must follow.

Columbia Councilwoman Laura Nauser said she doesn't understand the problem with requiring Uber to meet the same requirements as taxi cab companies.

In addition, Nauser said she is tired of the state and federal government trying to take control away from local city governments.

"I mean these cars are driving on our streets," Nauser said. "It's no different than any other business licensing requirement we do with any other business in our community."

The Missouri House passed two measures Thursday, Feb. 19 that would make Missouri the 32nd state to actively require some sort of identification to vote.

The first measure passed by the House is a constitutional amendment that would require a photo ID to vote.

Bill sponsor Rep. Tony Dugger, R-Hartville, said the constitutional amendment gives the voters the right to choose if they want to show a photo ID when voting.

"It would be up to the voters to decide," Dugger said.

Rep. Brandon Ellington, D-Jackson County, is the chair of the legislative Black Caucus.

He said this is not right for Missouri.

"This is not anything that is going to make the state of Missouri better," Ellington said. "I don't see it improving the voter process."

Rep. Glen Kolkmeyer, R-Odessa, shared his story of having to present a photo ID when buying a gun last summer

"If we had half, only half, of the identification in the process to go through to vote as we do to purchase a handgun, people would be outraged," Kolkmeyer said.

The second bill is what Dugger called the "nuts and bolts, I guess you could say, of how we would implement photo ID if the voters do pass the constitutional amendment."

An amendment added Wednesday would require the state to pay for a birth certificate for those that do not have one.

That was enough for Rep. Shamed Dogan, a black St. Louis County Republican, to support the bill.

"We're providing those state IDs to hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Missourians for free," Dogan said. "We're allowing them access to vote, in many cases, for the first time when they haven't been able to vote before."

The Joint Resolution passed by a vote of 118-39 and the House bill passed by a 118-37 margin.

The House gave first round approval on a bill and a constitutional amendment that would require voters to have a federal ID in order to vote.

This is the third time the General Assembly has tried to circumvent past Missouri Supreme Court decisions saying it is unconstitutional to require voters to present a federal ID in order to cast a ballot.

The legislation requires voters to identify themselves by proving that they are a U.S. citizen and Missouri resident.

If passed, this issue would be decided by voters.

In Missouri, current law dictates voters have to provide identification using anything from a state issued license to a utility bill with their name and address on it.

Supporters of the bill and amendment say that it will not only insure the identity of the voter but also an honest election process.

"We have an HJR that gets together before the voters and we get them to actually weigh in on this issue." said Rep. Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield. "And what we have is a constitution, a state constitution, that we are trying to amend in order for us to do something that many other states have done around the country."

Representatives who oppose this legislation are concerned the bill will unlawfully keep some elderly, disabled and poor Missourians from voting.

Rep. Karla May, D-St. Louis City, compared this legislation to Jim Crow laws.

"We are in a state of institutionalized racism right now, even in the state of Missouri," said Rep. May. "You're supporting racist legislation with no evidence of a problem that needs to be solved."

Final approval on both the bill and constitutional amendment could come with in the next few days.

If Sen. Joe Keaveny's, D-St. Louis City, bill is passed by the legislature, discrimination of any kind based on sexual orientation and identity would be illegal in Missouri.

Currently, the Missouri Non-Discrimination Act (MONA) does not have provisions that make it illegal for housing providers, employers or any other businesses in the state to refuse services to an individual based on their sexual orientation.

Debbie Jackson, a self-identified conservative, told the Senate progress and Development Committee this issue would not be top of mind for her if it were not for own child.

"When my child became increasingly depressed, was acting out and eventually became suicidal at the age of four, my perspective on a lot of things changed," she said. "You see, my child is transgender, and coming from such a long-standing conservative background, I never would have believed it was possible if I hadn't seen her distress first-hand, right in my own home."

Jackson told the committee that being LGBT is not a choice, but a natural part of a person's identity.

But the bill's opposition told the committee the bill puts the rights of the LGBT community at odds with individuals' right to religious freedom.

"With regard to people that run small businesses, in particular, those that practice in the wedding industry, I guess the question I would ask the committee is, is there a way to respect the rights of those in the LGBT community and also respect the rights of those, who for religious conviction reasons, cannot lend their artistic talents to a wedding ceremony for a gay couple?" Tyler McClay, a lobbyist for the Missouri Catholic Council, asked the committee.

Keaveny told reporters the bill will be ready for a vote next week.

Congresswoman Ann Wagner, R-Missouri, visited the state Capitol Wednesday to testify in favor of legislation at hearing of the House Committee on Civil and Criminal Proceedings to testify in favor of a bill that would expand the definition of sex trafficking of a child to include advertising a child for sexual purposes.

Rep. Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, sponsored the bill.

"Four years ago we passed legislation that made Missouri one of the strongest states in the country as far as local legislation," He said. "This is just the next step in order to keep up with the ongoing threat."

Wagner said users can log on to websites and can order a young girl to their hotel room as easy as ordering a pepperoni pizza.The congresswoman also said the age that kids are normally entered into trafficking are between 13 and 14 years-old and cannot control the situation they are in.

The committee did not take immediate action to the bill and nobody testified against the measure.

Republican Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, filed legislation Thursday to block the sale or refinancing of bonds by Gov. Jay Nixon to fund a new stadium for the St. Louis Rams.

Nixon said last week during a news conference he wasn't ruling out going around the General Assembly to build a proposed stadium north of the Edward Jones Dome.

In a statement, Silvey said the bill is not about Nixon or the Rams.

"This legislation is about establishing in law that the executive branch does not have the authority to put our state into debt without legislative or public approval," He said. "It’s critical we immediately stop what could set a very dangerous precedent in this state.”

Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, filed a resolution earlier this month which said the state would not commit to paying off any new bonds issued by Nixon.

Neither measure has had any hearings scheduled.

Conversations on a new school transfer bill began on the Senate floor Tuesday evening.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensbug, is similar to one vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon last year.

The bill, unlike last year, does not allow for unaccreddited school districts have to pay for the tuition of a student to go to a private school.

"So we're back again." Peace said. "Has the problem gone away? Absolutely not."

Pearce does not anticipate this bill being vetoed.

"I will applaud the governor," Pearce said. "This year he has reached out to those of us who have worked on this bill in the past and has said he would be willing to work and negotiate on some issues this year."

The bill was tabled until Wednesday

Lobbyists would only be able to spend a total of $25 a year on a single elected official under a measure presented to the House Government Oversight Committee Tuesday, Feb. 17.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, would also ban lobbyists from spending more than $5 on a single expenditure.

"The thought process of the $5, not to exceed $25, is to eliminate things like out-of-state travel, sporting events and expensive meals," Alferman said.

Though not a single lobbyist testified in opposition of the bill during the hearing, one testimonial raised questions about group and caucus expenditures.

"We've talked about individuals, but what about group and caucus reporting," said Mike Reid, a lobbyist for the Missouri Society of Governmental Consultants. "These are questions that need to be answered."

In addition to Alferman's bill, both the House and Senate have advanced bills to limit the revolving door of lawmakers becoming lobbyists by inserting a "cooling-off" period after leaving office before becoming a lobbyist.

Sen. Roy Blunt in the House Lounge

Sen. Roy Blunt visited the state Capitol Tuesday to promote a bill that he says would increase government transparency.

His bill introduced in the U.S. Senate is similar to a bill Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Union, has introduced in the Missouri House.

Blunt says the bills are common sense measures.

“It’s what people would expect to have happen,” Blunt said. “There’s so much disclosure on so many other kinds of communications now that what would be wrong with government just saying clearly who’s paying for this?”

Curtman echoed Blunt’s statement.

“It’s something that the people just kind of expect,” Curtman said. “When the government does communicate with the people, we have to make sure that we’re applying certain checks and balances and that we are offering that transparency.”

Blunt also addressed a potential shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security if Congress doesn’t agree on a funding solution before next Friday.

“We should move forward with the House bill,” Blunt said.

The House passed a bill that funded the department, but didn't provide any money for President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration.

Senate Democrats have since blocked the House bill from being debated twice.

He also addressed Sen. Claire McCaskill who is currently in Cuba and Gov. Jay Nixon who is going to Cuba in March.

“That will be a great market for us sometime,” Blunt said. “I personally think that that market is much more likely to be a market where they actually pay for what they get once the Castro brothers are gone.”

Blunt is also scheduled to address the House while in Jefferson City.

Rep. Andrew McDaniel, R-Deering, has sponsored a bill to help stop abuse in nursing homes. The bill would allow relatives to install monitoring devices in nursing home rooms.

McDaniel said he believes there is a trend of abuse in nursing homes.

"Basically I've had a constituent call me and talk about different things about people with bedsores, not rolled over right, and stuff like that," McDaniel said. "And lying in their fecal matter."

If a patient shares a room with another patient, the bill requires both families to give consent before the monitoring device can be installed.

In addition, McDaniel said care providers in nursing homes have no reason to worry about the monitoring devices.

"I'm also deputy sheriff so I was always in everybody's eyes as well," McDaniel said. "So if their doing their job right and promptly and taking care of the elderly, there should be no issue."

The Missouri Association of Nursing Home Administrators declined to comment.

The measure would raise the speed limit on multi-lane highways in rural areas from 70 mph to 75 mph.

The measure's sponsor is Rep. Mike Kelley, R-Lamar in rural southwest Missouri.

Kelley quoted the exact words from a Transportation Department study that concluded many drivers simply ignore the posted speed limit.

"Many drivers are frustrated by speed limits that are set lower than the perceived safe and reasonable speed," Kelley told the committee citing the department report.

"The drivers perceive the road conditions, weather and traffic to determine safe and reasonable speed.Otherwise, it creates conflict and frustration between the slow and fast drivers. Constant speed is the key,without it accidents increase".

Kelley said drivers are frustrated by Missouri speed limits that are lower than other states with poorer highways.

"I truly believe it is a public safety issue. I believe there are roadways that currently are being underused on the speed limit that is available.

Kelley cited the recent improvements made to I44 and I49 that warranted higher speeds.

He said a higher speed could reduce the congestion frustration for drivers.

Kelley said other states have the speed limits higher than Missouri's. He mentioned the German autobahns which have no speed limits in some areas, but strict laws and heavy fines for safety violations.

The only person to testify against raising the speed limit was the chief engineer of the Missouri Transportation Department, Ed Hassinger.

"Our roads are more congested, traffic volumns are higher, truck volumns are extremely higher in the places that we're talking about. Really, this is a discussion of safety versus convenience," Hassinger said.

He said a study in Kansas found a 50 percent increase in fatalities after raising its speed limit to 75 mph.

"When you have speed, you can't outrun the laws of physics. Accidents are going to be more serious. Fatalities and serious injuries are going to go up."

Kelley noted his bill would not change current law that lets the Transportation Department set a lower speed limits in specific areas where it determines a reduced speed is needed for safety reasons.

The committee took no immediate action on the measure.

Last Week

The Missouri Senate gave unanimous approval to legislation lowering the percentage of income cities can receive from traffic fines.

Sen. Eric Schmitt's, R-Glendale, bill was a direct response to the events in Ferguson last year and would cap the amount of money cities can take from court fees at 20 percent of their budget. That threshold is lowered to 10 percent for larger cities.

Lawmakers said excessive fees often times create modern, "debtors prisons".

The bill now heads to the House.

Gov. Jay Nixon addresses the press at the governor's mansion on Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015. (Photo by Chris Mathews)
For the second day in a row, Gov. Jay Nixon defended his decisions during the Ferguson riots.

Nixon expressed disappointment about the burning of businesses in Ferguson, but praised police for how they handled the situation. When asked if he could change any of the events that unfolded during the Ferguson riots, Nixon said he thought law enforcement did a great job of protecting speech and ensuring safety.

The governor addressed a number of statewide issues affecting Missouri. Among these issues was early childhood education.

"We know that investments in early childhood education pay huge dividends," said Gov. Nixon. "That's why even during challenging budget years, we've worked to identify creative ways to create quality preschool programs."

Another issue of importance was mental health throughout the state.

Gov. Nixon spoke about the building of the new Fulton State Mental Hospital that will replace the old one, built in 1851.

The governor also spoke about Medicaid expansion in the state.

In addition, Gov. Nixon discussed the House's vote to ban requiring workers to join a union and the Senate-passed bill that would require lawmakers to wait two years before becoming a lobbyist.

The Missouri House approved what is being called the "Right to Work" measure Thursday, that would prohibit employers from requiring workers to pay union dues.

Sponsored by Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, the measure will now go to the Senate chamber to be discussed.

The bill was heavily favored by House Republicans, who claimed that bordering states with similar legislation attract more business.

One representative mentioned how Texas, a state with such laws, has produced the most jobs out of any state since the recession.

In addition, Republicans believed that employees should not be forced to join extra groups and should simply have the right to work where they please.

House Democrats were staunchly opposed to the measure, citing that passing the bill would destroy labor unions and collective bargaining in the state.

"Those of us who oppose Right to Work believe that it's just another way of attacking workers and weakening unions," said Rep. Judy Morgan, D-Jackson County. "Right to Work takes rights away from companies and workers to establish their own workplace rules."

The House passed the measure by a vote of 91-64, with two members choosing not to vote.

State Auditor Tom Schweich and former Speaker of the House Catherine Hanaway spoke to the media as part of Missouri Press Association Day at the Capitol Thursday morning.

The event came just weeks after Schweich announced his run for governor in 2016.

Hanaway announced last year.

Schweich touted his work to root out corruption in local and state government.

="We've found 33 public officials stealing money and we're about to announce some more," Schweich said.

Relating to his run for governor, Schweich criticized Hanaway for the amount of money she's taken from Rex Sinquefield, a wealthy campaign contributor from St. Louis.

"What you don't want is a candidate that is bought and paid for by one contributor," Schweich said.

Hanaway didn't directly address the question of Sinquefield donating over $1 million to her campaign.

Instead, she touted her record.

"I was Speaker of the House and United States Attorney, the chief federal law enforcement official for half the state before I ever took one red cent from Rex Sinquefield," Hanaway said.

Hanaway then said she believes Sinquefield has donated to her for one simple reason.

"Rex Sinquefield has contributed to me because he believes in what I believe in," Hanaway said. "I'm going to have to build a whole lot more support."\

Ferguson Mayor Jason Knowles told a panel of lawmakers Wednesday night he has not spoken to Gov. Jay Nixon since September and, on the night of the grand jury's decision, Knowles was unable to reach Nixon as the unrest escalated.

Knowles went so far to call Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, Attorney General Chris Koster and State Treasurer Clint Zweifel to see if they could reach Nixon so the governor could send in the National Guard.

Despite their efforts, Knowles still could not reach Nixon.

Knowles was kept in the dark about most of the crucial aspects of the Ferguson response.

He found out about the "no-fly zone" advisory placed on Ferguson's airspace from a story in a newspaper, was unable to give input before a curfew was put into place and was not briefed on the chain of command after the shooting death of Michael Brown on Aug. 9, 2014.

One week before the grand jury's decision, Nixon had declared a state of emergency so the Guard could help local officials.

The Guard was later sent into Ferguson on November 25, after much of the damage had already been done.

Firefighters tasked with maintaing the integrity of Ferguson's buildings were unable to do their jobs because they could not be protected from gunfire.

"I never thought in my career...we'd be teaching people in North County how to wear body armor," Eureka Fire Chief Greg Brown said.

"We saw the town of Ferguson burning down," St. Louis County Chief of Special Operations Matt LaVanchy told the committee.

LaVanchy said he was required to follow orders and abandon a man who was trapped inside Sam's Meat Market in Ferguson.

"He was banging on the window begging for somebody to help him get out of the building that was on fire," LaVanchy said. "And we had to leave him at that point."

Democrats in the Senate stalled a final vote on a bill that would eliminate welfare benefits for people are not seeking jobs.

The bill would require the Department of Social Services to investigate a family in order to determine whether the head of the household is fulfilling the work activity requirement defined by the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, program.

If they are not, then they will not receive any benefits for one month.

They must provide proof of working for an average of 30 hours a week in order to receive benefits again.

Senators who oppose the bill say they are worried about the effect it could have on the children.

"If this were just about the adults and we were taking away their portion of the TANF benefit I would be with you 100 percent," said Sen. Jill Schupp, D-St. Louis County. "Those adults are responsible for children."

Supporters of the bill say they hope this will stop people from taking advantage of the system.

"We are not taking food off of the table," said Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville. "The families are still getting the snap benefits. The children are still on the state CHIP program. They're getting medical care. The family is receiving heating and electricity costs. So it's not like we're deserting the families."

The bill also includes a 24 month life time limit for TANF benefits and would also prohibit anyone guilty of a dangerous felony from receiving benefits.

Right to Work has made first round approval through the House after a 92 to 66 vote.

Opposition brought up mainly by Democrats compared the current Right to Work states to Union states.

Democratic Representative Jon Carpenter said that the lowest quality of life and jobs remains in those states that are Right to Work.

"States that have been Right to Work for decades in every major category including unemployment rates are among the worst in the country," Carpenter said.

Supporters of the bill referenced poor counties along state lines of Oklahoma and Arkansas and how the cost of living across the border was better than those just a few miles away.

The bill would prohibit an employer from requiring a person to become a member of a labor organization in order to continue working.

Gov. Jay Nixon would not be allowed to become the president of the University of Missouri System under legislation heard during a Senate Education Committee hearing.

The bill would prohibit members of the UM System from voting to appoint or hire the person who appointed them to their position on the board.

Although Schaefer said this has never happened in Missouri, he said it's necessary because it's been an issue in other states.

"I think we're looking at a lot of things right now in ethics bills that are nothing but appearances," Schaefer said. "But people believe that appearance erodes the publics confidence in the institution whether that be the Senate of the University of Missouri."

Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Jackson County, said the bill may disallow the most qualified candidates from being considered for the position.

"I think that this is walking down a very slippery slope of interjecting government into a decision on who's most qualified for a position regardless of past position that they held," Holsman said.

If the bill passes, a curator would lose their position on the board if they violate the prohibition.

Gov. Jay Nixon defended the Missouri National Guard's response to the decision by a St. Louis County grand jury not to indict a white Ferguson police officer in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Nixon said the decision to have the Guard protect locations like the county courthouse and the headquarters of the Ferguson Police Department was the right decision tactically.

"When this is looked at and the discipline that was shown there, we're talking about what tactically should be have been done and what building were damages," he said. "It's a lot better than the discussion after Kent State."

He later added protecting the lives of police and protesters was more important than protecting buildings.

The earlier comments on Kent State were in reference to an incident in 1970 where the Ohio National Guard shot and killed several unarmed college students.

Gov. Jay Nixon said on three separate occasions he's not ruling out re-issuing bonds to help fund a new stadium for the St. Louis Rams.

"I would only say we've had good communications and we're going to continue to do that." Nixon said.

The comments came during a news conference held in Nixon's capitol office and just one day after the governor announced a deal with Ameren Missouri and a St. Louis area railroad to move power lines and railroad tracks to build the stadium.

Nixon's Office of Administration said earlier this year the governor can use previously issued bonds to help pay for a stadium located north of the Edward Jones Dome on the Mississippi River.

Lawmakers including Jefferson City Republican Rep. Jay Barnes, who chairs the committee charged with investigating the Rams impact on the state, have previously said using already issued bonds to fund new construction should come with an asterisk.

The head of the Missouri State Highway Patrol will retire May 1, ending his 31 years with the department.

Col. Ron Replogle will be replaced by Maj. Bret Johnson, the commander of the Patrol's Bureau of Field Operations.

Gov. Jay Nixon praised Replogle's tenure at the helm of MSHP at a news conference on Wednesday, Feb. 11.

"[Replogle] has been every bit the leader that I expected," Nixon said. "I congratulate Ron on a tremendous job and thank him for his service to the people of Missouri."

Replogle, Nixon and the Highway Patrol have been criticized for how they handled the reaction to the shooting death of Michael Brown and how police in Ferguson responded to protests following the decision by a St. Louis County grand jury not to indict the police officer who shot Brown.

A resolution that would allow voters to repeal a constitutional amendment that makes grand juries legal in Missouri was discussed among members of the House Civil and Criminal Proceedings Committee.

The resolution's sponsor, Brandon Ellington, D-Jackson County, said the concept of a grand jury was antiquated, tracing the historical roots of the grand jury back to America's colonial past.

Ellington also said grand juries are shrouded in too much secrecy, but did admit that there are certain sensitive cases, including acts of child molestation, that deserve that secrecy.

Some of Ellington's other criticisms of the grand jury process included the lack of knowledge grand jury members have of the legal system.

Opponents of the resolution said the prosecutor has an important role as the presenter of evidence during grand juries.

Mark Richardson, Cole County's prosecuting attorney, told the committee safeguards exist to handle prosecutors who shift from presenting information to advocating and that grand jurors take their roles seriously enough to be trusted.

Metropolitan area cities would be forced to cut down how much of their budgets can be financed by traffic fines under a measure approved by the Senate.

Current law limits a city to funding no higher than 30 percent of its budget from traffic fines.

Any excess traffic revenue is transferred to local public schools.

The measure approved by the Senate would Cut that limit to 20 percent in 2016 and down to 10 percent the following year.

"For far too long we've had way too many municipalities too dependent on traffic tickets and fines in their city budgets," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-St. Louis County.

But resistance from rural lawmakers led to a partial exemption for smaller towns and villages in rural Missouri after arguments that traffic fines were essential to providing funds for rural law enforcement.

"We don't want to put a position out there where these small towns can't even afford police protection because the sheriff, unless we're willing to give them a heck lot more money, they're not going to be able to police it, they're not going to be able to do it," said Sen. Jay Wasson, R-Nixa.

Wasson's amendment approved by the Senate would allow rural small towns finance up to 20 percent of their budgets from traffic fines -- twice the 10 percent limit that would be imposed on urban area cities in 2017.

A bill that would allow a court to make someone who is under a restraining order wear a monitoring device was questioned by a director of one Missouri coalition against violence.

The director of the Missouri Coalition against Domestic and Sexual Violence, Colleen Coble, said the organization is in support of the bill, but suggested a few changes to be made to the bill.

"These issues are being addressed in legislatures throughout the country right now," Coble said. "And nobody has exactly come up with the exact language and statute."

Coble asked for there to be clarification as to who would be monitoring the device in real time and who would be responsible for notifying the victim.

With the help of GPS programming, the device would create a restricted area that the wearer cannot enter.

If the wearer were to enter the restricted area, the device would alert authorities who would be immediately dispatched.

No one spoke in opposition of the bill.

Two senators are aiming to limit the amount individuals and committees can contribute to political campaigns.

Both Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, and Sen. Paul LeVota, D-Independence, are sponsoring bills that would limit campaign contributions. The senators appeared before the Senate Ethics Committee to discuss their bills.

"I think having unlimited contributions - million dollar contributions - pollutes the system, and I just think it's very hard to justify that," Pearce said. "And I also think these large donations have changed the giving patterns, especially in the House of Representatives, where now more contributions are going to committee chairs, those in leadership, and those new state representatives starting out don't have an opportunity to get as much because these unlimited dollars are going else where."

LeVota also said large contributions discourage political involvement.

"It diminishes the political involvement of everyone else, and that's what we've seen happen," LeVota said. "Where candidates come, they have a ton of money either from a single source or just a few sources, and then no one runs against them."

Both bills limit contributions from individuals and committees, but Sen. Gina Walsh, D-St. Louis County, said she is concerned about candidates freely funding their own races.

"So if a very wealthy individual or an individual of means had the ability to fund their own race, and they were running against someone that their only resources were their ideas and their will to serve the people of their community, the person with the money would win, right?" Walsh said.

Walsh wasn't the only one with concerns. Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Greene County, said he is concerned people will violate the spirit of the law.

"If we're going to go down the road of putting limits on what people can do and how they can participate, my observation over the times that we've had those is that people try to find some way around it," Dixon said.

Dixon said he wants to know who receives contributions and where they are coming from.

A House committee passed a bill that would require the Department of Health and Senior Services to annually regulate abortion clinics.

The House Children and Families committee passed the bill Tuesday. If passed, an on-site inspection of abortion clinics would be required at least once a year.

The findings of the investigation report would be made available to the public. However, any portion of the report could be redacted if it is not subject to disclosure under the law.

Sponsored by Rep. Kathryn Swan, R-Cape Girardeau, the bill was heavily supported by the Republican-controlled committee. The vote was eight in favor, three against.

The bill will now move onto the House floor for discussion.

Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Jefferson County, presented his first bill as a lawmaker to the House Energy and Environment Committee Tuesday, Feb. 10 and it was met with industry support and citizen opposition.

Shaul's bill would give customers the choice of offering a paper or plastic bag to customers at any merchant or vendor store.

However, the most controversial part of the bill is language that prevents cities from banning plastic bags or imposing a fee on those bags.

This drew the ire of Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis.

"When do we draw the line for us at this level to tell people who want local control that they don't know what they're doing?" Colona asked.

The issue of a plastic bag ban has come to a head lately as the city council in Columbia is considering whether to ban plastic bags altogether or impose a fee.

This brought Americans for Prosperity Deputy State Director Rachel Payton to the Capitol to testify in favor of the bill.

"The city of Columbia is getting in the way of the consumer and the retailer and we are asking the state to let the consumer have a choice and not allow the city to get in the way of our choice," Payton said.

Colona asked Payton if it's a better idea to work with Columbia City Council members instead of asking the state to mandate a law.

"If I'm a city council person from the city of Columbia, I'm livid," Colona said.

"I'm a citizen of the city of Columbia," Payton said. "I'm livid and I'm asking my representatives here in the state to fix that."

President of the Missouri Retailers Association David Overfelt said the bill would give retailers specific set of rules.

"It's very difficult for us to operate when we have one locale decide, we think very wrongheaded, to ban a product that has been out there for decades that's not toxic," Overfelt said.

Carolyn Amparan, a resident of Columbia and a member of the Missouri Sierra Club, spoke against the bill citing the harmful effects of plastic bags to the environment.

"We want to remove the plastic bag litter and pollution at its source: the checkout lanes of local stores selling groceries," Amparan said.

The committee took no action on the bill.

Students would no longer be taking the two state tests required to graduate from high schools across Missouri if a new bill comes into effect.

A new civics bill would replace the current Missouri and U.S. Constitution tests that are currently high school graduation requirements and would instead have students take one civics test.

If passed, Missouri high school students would take the United States Citizen Test, the same test that new citizens are required to pass.

Brian Sanders, a professor at Evangel University, said that the current tests are not working and is in favor of this new compiled test.

The test would require all students to receive a 60 percent or above, but students can take the test as many times as they need to pass.

This bill would not eliminate End of Course, or EOC testing.

The changes would only apply to Missouri students graduating high school or receiving their GED.

Separate legislation that would require a waiting period before elected officials could become lobbyists is moving forward in both the House and the Senate.

The Senate passed a bill that would require a two-year period before legislators who leave office can become lobbyists starting in 2017.

The House Government Oversight and Accountability Committee voted to pass a bill that would require government officials to wait just one year before becoming a lobbyist.

House bill sponsor Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, refers to these two bills as "revolving door" legislation.

"You see examples, though, where people are jumping from legislator to lobbyist very quickly, and in some cases there might be an impropriety there," said Barnes. "At the very least there is the appearance of impropriety and I think we ought to get rid of the appearance and real examples of impropriety in the same swoop. I think we do that by banning the revolving door."

The House "revolving door" bill only mentions the one year waiting period for legislators, while the Senate's bill would not ban the immediate jump from legislator to lobbyist until 2017.

The Senate bill would also prohibit legislators from serving as a paid political consultant for another legislator.

"I think that like every bill or every topic that's a subject of bills, it's a process of debate and negotiation," said Barnes. "I'm hopeful some sort of ban can be passed into law."

After a tense House Workforce Standards and Development Committee hearing, the committee passed two pieces of government deduction legislation following a brief recess.

The bills would prohibit public employees from being forced to pay dues to a labor union.

A tense exchange between Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, who sponsored the bill, and committee member Bob Burns, D-St. Louis County, lead committee chairman Bill Lant, R-Pineville, to call for a five minute recess.

A major theme of the debate surrounding the bills had to do with government regulation.

Rep. Stephen Webber, R-Columbia, asked Rehder if she viewed the bills as government regulation.

When Rehder said she did not see the legislation in that way, Webber asked her if she knew what government regulation meant.

Burns asked Rehder if she was concerned that the bills would hurt workers by lowering wages.

When she said she had not heard of any states where wages diminished after adopting right to work legislation, members of the audience began to laugh.

Groups that supported the bill gave very brief testimony, with most attendees simply stating who they were representing and that their organization supported the legislation.