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Thursday, April 26, 2007


Legislation providing the legal authorization for Gov. Matt Blunt’s proposed sale of Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority assets cleared the Senate on April 26 following weeks of opposition by Democrats. SB 389, which also caps tuition increases at public colleges and universities, was sent to the House of Representatives on a 23-11 vote.

The governor’s plan calls for selling a portion of MOHELA’s student loan portfolio to raise $350 million for campus construction projects, which are included in another bill the Senate had earlier forwarded to the House. The current plan, however, bears little resemblance to Blunt’s original proposal to bolster life sciences research and spur economic development throughout the state. All projects for the UM System’s Columbia and Kansas City campuses have been stripped from project list, which now focuses on maintenance and repair projects. Critics say the sale will jeopardize MOHELA’s ability to continue providing lost-cost student loans.


A report issued by State Auditor Susan Montee on April 25 says the state’s Second Injury Fund is headed for insolvency in 2008 due in part to a 2005 law that capped employer payments into the fund. The state established the fund in 1943 to encourage employers to hire previously injured workers by supplementing workers’ compensation payments to workers who aggravate existing injuries on the job.

Employer fees support the Second Injury Fund. A 2005 law that overhauled the Missouri’s workers’ compensation system capped the fee at 3 percent of an employer’s workers’ compensation insurance premium. The fee previously was based on a formula set by the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. The audit says the fee needs to be at least 3.5 percent to keep the fund solvent. In the two years before the cap was imposed, the fee was 4 percent.


Legislation to eliminate Missouri’s casino loss limits in exchange for increasing taxes on casino operators narrowly won preliminary Senate approval on April 24, but final passage remains far from certain. SB 430 passed 17-16. The bill needs 18 votes to advance to the House of Representatives.

Gambling opponents agreed to end their nine-hour filibuster of the bill after Senate Majority Leader Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph and the bill’s sponsor, agreed to impose higher taxes on casinos than originally proposed. Shields had proposed boosting casinos’ gross receipts tax to 22 percent from the current 20 percent. Under the compromise, the tax rate would increase to 24.25 percent. Casino lobbyists likely will ask the House to return to the smaller increase.

Missouri is the only state to impose casino loss limits, which the Missouri Gaming Commission and casino operators say puts the state at a competitive disadvantage against neighboring states with legalized gambling. Patrons are restricted to losing $500 every two hours. The loss limit is the last vestige of restrictions Missouri voters imposed when they authorized casinos in the 1990s. If the bill clears the Senate, its fate in the House is uncertain.


The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling upholding a federal law banning a certain type of late-term abortion procedure revives a similar Missouri law that a federal appeals court had struck down. Days after its 5-4 decision on the federal law, the high court on April 23 issued a brief order vacating the appellate ruling in the Missouri case.

The Missouri General Assembly enacted the state law in 1999 over then-Gov. Mel Carnahan’s veto. The law, which had been blocked in court ever since, bans an abortion procedure known medically as “extraction and dilation.” Abortion rights opponents call the procedure “partial birth abortion.” Doctors who violate the law are subject to felony charges.

The same day the Supreme Court issued its order on the Missouri law, the state House of Representatives gave passed a bill imposing strict regulations on abortion clinics. Abortion rights supporters say the bill could force two of the three Missouri clinics that provide abortion services to stop doing so. The bill, HB 1055, must still be approved by the Senate to become law.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Senate Republicans shut down debate in the early morning hours of April 19 to force votes on two bills related to Gov. Matt Blunt’s plan to sell Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority assets. The sale would raise $350 million to pay for construction and maintenance projects at state colleges and universities. Democrats say the sale would jeopardize MOHELA’s ability to continue providing low-cost student loans and had kept plan, which failed to clear the legislature last year, stalled for more than a month.

The plan approved by the Senate, however, bears little resemblance to the governor’s proposal promote life sciences research and economic development in Missouri. Republicans stripped the plan’s centerpiece – an $89.5 million life sciences research center at the University of Missouri-Columbia – and also removed funding for other projects at the UM System’s Columbia and Kansas City campuses.
The Senate gave first-round approval to SB 389, which provides legal authorization for the sale, on vote of 21-12. The Senate voted 20-13 to send HB 16, which contains the project list, back to the House for final approval.

SB 389 and HB 16 were just the seventh and eighth bills since 1970 on which the Senate shut down debate to force votes. Five of those actions have come since Republicans took control of the Senate in 2001. Unlike in the House of Representatives where the majority party routinely uses its power to cut off discussion, Senate tradition allows for indefinite debate.


Just 15 days before Gov. Matt Blunt nominated Rudolph Farber to the powerful State Highways and Transportation Commission on March 19, the Neosho banker donated $50,000 to the governor’s re-election campaign. The donation was made on March 4 and became public with Blunt’s April16 campaign finance disclosure report. Democratic lawmakers criticized the timing as the most recent – and most blatant – example of government for sale by the Blunt administration.

When asked at an April 17 news conference whether the donation was made in exchange for the appointment, the governor said: “I think one’s not connected to the other.” When contacted by The Associated Press earlier that day, Farber hung up the phone before the reporter could even tell him what the call was about. “I’m sorry, I have no desire to talk to you,” Farber told the reporter.
At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee on April 18, Farber denied any quid pro quo. “It is my strong belief that the substantial contribution and support I’ve given to the governor is unrelated to this appointment,” Farber said, according to the AP. The committee endorsed Farber’s appointment, and the full Senate confirmed him on April 19.


Secretary of State Robin Carnahan made a “reasonable effort” to clear ineligible voters from election rolls and didn’t violate the National Voter Registration Act, a federal judge ruled on April 13. The U.S. Justice Department sued Carnahan in November 2005 claiming local election authorities failed to keep election rolls updated by removing the names of people who had moved or were otherwise ineligible.
U.S. District Court Judge Nanette Laughrey ruled the Justice Department failed to prove inaccurate voter lists resulted in fraud and that Carnahan had taken adequate steps to update the lists. “The Court declines to order the secretary of state to do things which she is already doing voluntarily,” Laughrey wrote in her decision.


Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce on April 10 ordered the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to stay out of a dispute over whether tipped workers whose employers didn’t initially honor the state’s new minimum wage law are entitled to back wages. Joyce’s temporary restraining order instructs the department not to take a position on whether back wages are owed. A hearing the matter is set for next month.
Missouri voters in November passed Proposition B to boost the state’s standard minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.50 an hour and the minimum wage for tipped workers from $2.13 to $3.25 an hour. When the law took effect on Jan. 1, however, the labor department advised employers they didn’t have to give raises to tipped workers, so long as those workers earned at least $6.50 an hour through wages and tips combined.
Gov. Matt Blunt overruled the department on March 14 and ordered it to advise employers to pay tipped workers $3.25 and hour. A group of restaurant owners sued the department last month seeking a court judgment that the proper minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13 an hour or, in the alternative, an exemption from paying back wages covering the period of Jan. 1 to March 14.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Last of the Survey Results

These are the last of the results I have from the 67th District survey sent out earlier in the year. Please see the other post from 4/11/07 for more details on how the survey was conducted.

#9 Do you support eliminating state taxes on social security benefits for all seniors?
No Opinion-4.2%

#10 Do you support a law that would allow a citizen to use deadly force against those who unlawfully enter dwellings, residences, and vehicles even if there is no apparent danger to their life?
No Opinion-3.8%

#11 Do you support raising boarding fees and increasing tax rates on gaming boats?
No Opinion-7.0%

#12 Should the state allow slot machines in businesses other than gaming boats?
No Opinion-5.7%

Monday, April 16, 2007

Registering Voters

Currently we are debating HB845 which would send to those who apply for a fishing or hunting license a voter registration card. Amendments were offered that would have granted other applicants (like students who register to take classes at MO institutions of higher education) the same benefit. These amendments were ruled out of order and were not allowed to be debated on the floor. You have to start to wonder whether or not the goal is to get residents registered to vote or whether the goal is only to get a specific group of residents registered to vote.
Here's the link to the bill: http://www.house.mo.gov/bills071/bills/hb845.htm

More Survey Results Regarding Transportation

These are more results I have from the 67th District survey sent out earlier in the year. Please see the other post from 4/11/07 for more details on how the survey was conducted.

#6 Do you support a 1 cent sales tax to rebuild the highways?
No Opinion-3.6%

#7 Do you support a toll-road system to rebuild the highways?
No Opinion-5.3%

#8 Should Missouri implement a primary seat belt enforcement requirement?
No Opinion-3.8%

Friday, April 13, 2007

More Survey Results

These are more results I have from the 67th District survey sent out earlier in the year. Please see the other post from 4/11/07 for more details on how the survey was conducted.

#4 Do you support a state law that would prohibit businesses from hiring illegal immigrants?

no opinion-4.3%

#5 Do you support a state law that would prohibit a landlord from renting to an illegal immigrant?

no opinion-3.2%


Missourian Department of Transportation Director Pete Rahn on April 11 said that over the next 20 years the state is expected to have nearly $37.4 billion in transportation needs but only $19 billion in expected revenue. Rahn made his comment during discussion of MoDOT’s long-range transportation plan before the State Highways and Transportation Commission.
According to The Associated Press, long-range plan anticipates that over the next 20 years MoDOT will need $16.3 billion to expand the state highway system, $11.8 billion to maintain existing roads, $4 billion for public transportation, $3.5 for bridge maintenance, $1 billion for passenger rail, $710 million for airports and $60 million for river ports.


Gov. Matt Blunt says he opposes efforts by House Republicans to severely weaken a minimum wage law Missouri voters approved in November. Blunt made his comments during an April 11 news conference.

With 76 percent support, Missourians approved Proposition B, which increased the state’s standard minimum wage to $6.50 from $5.15 an hour. The Senate in February passed SB 255 to fix a flaw in the minimum wage law related to overtime pay for police and firefighters. When the bill came before a House committee, however, Republican lawmakers voted to repeal key voter-approved provisions that will annually adjust the minimum wage to account for inflation and that boosted the minimum wage for tipped workers to $3.35 from $2.13 an hour.

Blunt said lawmakers should pass the original Senate bill – which the group that placed Prop B on the ballot has endorsed – without making other major changes in defiance of voters. State Rep. Shannon Cooper, R-Clinton, told The Associated Press that he will use his position as House Rules Committee chairman to prevent the bill from reaching a vote unless all issues are addressed. If the statutory fix isn’t passed this year, it could end up costing local governments substantially more in overtime pay for police and firefighters.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Survey Results

As many of you know every year I send out a survey that attempts to focus on some of the legislation I believe will be debated in the Missouri House. Although we still have some surveys coming back to the office I thought you might be interested in seeing what the results are to date. Of course I will also include the final results with the end of session report that I will send out during the summer.

The survey is sent out to all households with registered voters in the 67th District. We sent out about 12,500 surveys. Of that number we have received 530 responses. Here's the results so far to the first three questions asked. I'll post the other results over the next several days.

#1 Do you support a takeover of the St. Louis Public Schools by the State of Missouri?

no opinion-8.7%
blank 1.5%

#2 Do you support legislation that would require parental consent before a student could participate in extracurricular activities?

no opinion-6.2%

#3 Do you favor the sale of MOHELA assets in order to pay for college construction projects?

no opinion-11.5%

Thursday, April 5, 2007


The Senate on April 4 approved a bill to rename Medicaid as MO HealthNet and make other changes to the state health care program for the poor. Under a 2005 law, the program is slated to be eliminated next year. The bill, SB 577 repeals that sunset.

The measure doesn’t restore coverage to any of the 180,000 Missourians who lost it when lawmakers cut the program two years ago. Republican senators defeated attempts to restore coverage. Democrats, however, were successful in expanding health screenings and family planning services for tens of thousands of women.


The trial in a three-year-old lawsuit challenging the constitutionally of Missouri’s system for funding local public schools came to a close on March 30. Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan isn’t expected to rule in the case for several months. Regardless of his decision, an appeal is likely.

More than half of Missouri’s 524 school districts sued the state in 2004 claiming the state provides inadequate funding to local schools and unfairly distributes the money it does provide. After the General Assembly overhauled the funding distribution formula in 2005, the districts amended their lawsuit to also challenge the new formula.
In addition to the equity and adequacy claims, a subgroup of suburban districts also argued that many districts aren’t raising enough local revenue because of artificially low property tax assessments, particularly in rural areas. As a result, districts with undervalued property are getting more state money than they deserve and shortchanging districts with accurate assessments, the suburban districts claim.


House Transportation Committee Chairman Neal St. Onge on March 29 proposed a $4 billion tax increase to pay for rebuilding Interstate 70 and other highway projects throughout the state, along with upgrading river ports and improving public transportation. St. Onge, R-Ballwin, doesn’t expect his proposal to pass this year but hopes to build support for placing it on the statewide ballot in 2008, according to The Associated Press.

St. Onge’s plan calls for increasing car license plate fees by $15 and commercial truck plate fees by $20. It would also boost the state fuel tax by 4 cents per gallon, impose a 2 percent sales tax on fuel and increase the general state sales tax by half a percent. The taxes would expire after six years.

Earlier this year, Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, proposed a 1 percent general state sales tax for rebuilding Interstates 70 and 44. That tax would generate as estimated $7.2 billion and expire after 10 years. The bills are HB 1237 and SB 310.

Death Penalty Execution Team

Although maybe not directly related I think it's close enough to bring up.

We just passed a bill that gives members of the execution team confidentiality. Testifying against the bill were Missouri Association of CriminalDefense Lawyers; Jeff Stack, Missourians to Abolish the DeathPenalty; and Missouri Catholic Conference. Absent from any testimony was Missouri Right to Life.

Minimum Wage

I recieved the following information regarding what happened in the General Laws Committee this morning:

Republicans on the House General Laws Committee today voted to strip some of the main provisions from a new state minimum wage law Missouri voters overwhelmingly approved in November. Proposition B, which passed with a remarkable 76-percent voter support, increased the state’s standard minimum wage to $6.50 an hour from $5.15 an hour. It also established annual adjustments in the minimum wage based on changes in the Consumer Price Index.

Because of a potential flaw in Proposition B’s wording relating to overtime compensation for police and firefighters, the Senate in February passed SB 255 to address the issue. Proposition B supporters endorsed the proposed fix.

When the House General Laws Committee considered the measure this morning, state Rep. Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, offered a substitute bill that deletes the voter-approved annual cost of living adjustments and also rescinds the minimum wage increase granted to tipped employees. Proposition B increased the minimum wage for tipped employees to $3.25 hour from $2.13 an hour.

The revised bill gutting Proposition B passed on a 5-3 party-line vote. Voting in favor of the measure were Republicans Shannon Cooper of Clinton, Steve Hunter of Joplin, Mike Parson of Boliver, Dwight Scharnhorst of Ballwin and Tilley. Opposed were Democrats Beth Low of Kansas City, Brad Robinson of Bonne Terre and Frame.

Prior to voter approval of Proposition B, Missouri’s minimum wage hadn’t increased since 1997.

Here's the link to the bill: http://www.senate.mo.gov/07info/BTS_Web/Bill.aspx?SessionType=R&BillID=4047

Religious Freedom

Well, after adjourning last night at about 11:15 p.m. we took up the floor debate this morning with HJR19 http://www.house.mo.gov/bills071/bills/hjr19.htm

If passed by both chambers it will go to a vote of the people. Once again, a resolution that is completely unnecessary but will do a heck of a good job drawing certain voters out to the polls at the November 2008 election.

The two major points of the resolution are to guarantee and reaffirm "a citizen's right to pray or to express his or her religious beliefs" and "the right to free exercise of religious expression". I'm pretty sure these two issues are already guaranteed by the courts and I've never seen a constitutional amendment used to "emphasize" or reaffirm anything.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Primary Seat Belt Law

We've been called into session at 8:00p.m. this evening to debate the primary seat belt law. Those opposed to the bill seem to be very excited. I would expect some interesting amendments to be offered. I'll keep the updates going as the night goes on. http://www.house.mo.gov/bills071/bills/hb90.htm

9:15 First hour has been spent discussing racial profiling. A member of the black caucus has told me the members are divided on the bill.

10:15 We were still debating the first amendment to the bill and racial profiling when the majority floor leader took back the floor and the bill was put on the informal calender. This means the bill can be taken up again at a later date.

"Special" License Plates

Here's an interesting bill that we heard in the Transportation Committee today. In a nut shell it allows the Department of Revenue to issue a "special" license plate for those who have had their license suspended for over 60 days. Expect the plate to be flashy because law enforcement testified for the bill because it would also give them probable cause to pull drivers with these plates over. Another bill filed dealing with the same subject recommended a hot pink color.

Open Enrollment

Another interesting bill placed on the House Calendar is the HCS HB807 & 690. The original versions applied only to students in provisional and unaccredited school districts. The committee substitute applies to any student in Missouri. The following link will take you to the bill: http://www.house.mo.gov/bills071/bills/HB807.htm

Upcoming Legislation (announced April 3rd)

For more details on any of these bills please go to the following link and type in the bill number in the "Bill Search" box in the upper right hand corner (Example: HB487). http://www.house.mo.gov/

HCS HB 487 – Establishes the Missouri County Planning Act.

HB 882 – Establishes the Human Voice Contact Act requiring state agencies to ensure that a caller is provided the option to speak with a live attendant.

HCS HB 845 – Requires voter registration forms to be mailed to persons with resident hunting and fishing permits who are not registered to vote.

HCS HB 892 – Creates the Medal of Freedom to be awarded to any veteran who honorably served in the armed forces at any time since 1990 under certain residency requirements.

HB 916 – Exempts veterans' organizations from paying the 2% tax on the gross receipts for each bingo pull-tab card sold.

HCS HB 945 – Creates the crime of murder of a criminal justice official and expands the crime of assault of law enforcement officers, emergency personnel, or probation officers in the first degree to add corrections officers.

HB 791 – Requires health carriers to provide a report of the total dollar amount and the total number of claims paid under the plan for the previous three-year period upon the employer's request.

HCS HB 1002 – Changes the requirements for economic subsidies to Missouri qualified biodiesel producers.

HCS HB 765 – Changes the laws regarding state employee retirement and medical benefits.

HB 42 – Repeals the requirements that the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners establish the Bertillon system of identification of criminals and employ assistance to conduct and manage the department.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Upcoming Legislation (Announced April 2cnd)

HB 224 – Restricts the driver's license of a convicted sexual offender to no more than one year and revokes the license if the offender fails to register as required by law. http://www.house.mo.gov/bills071/bills/hb224.htm

HCS HB 181 – Requires captioning of electronic video instructional material. http://www.house.mo.gov/bills071/bills/hb181.htm

HB 554 – Prohibits state and local entities from discriminating between licensed professional counselors. http://www.house.mo.gov/bills071/bills/hb554.htm

HCS HB 457 – Increases the amount of credit allowed under the senior citizen/ disabled person property tax credit program known as circuit breaker and renames it the Senior Citizens' Homestead Tax Relief Act. http://www.house.mo.gov/bills071/bills/hb457.htm

HB 462 – Changes the laws regarding concealable firearms. http://www.house.mo.gov/bills071/bills/hb462.htm

HCS HB 891 – Authorizes a tax credit for a business employing a disabled worker. http://www.house.mo.gov/bills071/bills/hb891.htm

HCS HB 914 – Changes the laws regarding the licensing of certain professions and establishes vision screening examinations for children in public schools. http://www.house.mo.gov/bills071/bills/hb914.htm

HCS HB 497 – Establishes guidelines for the licensure and supervision of physician assistants. http://www.house.mo.gov/bills071/bills/hb497.htm