Many Bills On 'Death Watch' As Adjournment Looms
Barring last-minute resurrections before 6 p.m. Friday, several hot issues before the Missouri General Assembly this session are stone cold and legislatively buried.
After several days of vigorous debates and votes this week, leaders of the state House and Senate have had to make tough choices on which issues they have time to handle before adjournment -- and which ones they must jettison until next year.
Here are the most likely casualties:
- Medical malpractice legislation to restore lawsuit limits ousted a few years ago by the courts;
- Expansion of the state's Medicaid program, as sought under the federal Affordable Care Act.
- Restrictions on red-light cameras;
- Ethics legislation to restrict lobbyists’ gifts to lawmakers, curb the “revolving door” that allows former legislators to become lobbyists immediately or restore campaign-donation limits.
- “Right to work” and other measures to diminish union rights, such as eliminating pay-check deduction of union dues;
- State tax credits, an annual target of Gov. Jay Nixon and allied Republicans who want to reduce their use;
- “Conscience’’ legislation to allow medical personnel to decline to provide medical services or procedures they oppose on moral or ethical grounds;
- The nullification of most federal gun laws, which has gotten caught up in a House-Senate dispute over whether federal law enforcement personnel in the state should face penalties for enforcing laws deemed by gun enthusiasts to be anti-Second Amendment.
- An alleged “loophole’’ that threatens the state’s involvement in the multi-state settlement with major tobacco companies, which adds at least $70 million annually to the state’s coffers.
- Regulations on the use of all-terrain vehicles on state-owned property, such as waterways. The proposals got caught up in an amendment aimed at requiring the electric-vehicle manufacturer, Tesla Motors, to open dealerships instead of selling directly to the public.
The presumed legislative “deaths’’ of these issues was a key reason the number of lobbyists roaming the Capitol’s halls plummeted Thursday.
And most of those remaining, who camped at their usual spots on the third floor between the House and Senate chambers, said they were sticking it out “just in case’’ an issue that a client favored or loathed somehow came back to life.
"We're bird-dogging a lot of different things,'' said Kerry Messer, a lobbyist for several social-conservative and pro-gun groups.
Lobbyist John C. "Woody" Cozad, former chairman of the Missouri Republican Party, said the usual method of resurrection involves amendments. "If you've got a piece of legislation that couldn't make it through the process, now you're trying to tack it onto another bill that seems to have a chance," Cozad said.
And that can happen. State Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, showed up in the House press gallery Thursday afternoon to announce that he planned "one last battle'' before Friday's 6 p.m. adjournment. He hopes to resurrect his effort to force insurance companies in the state to cover treatment of eating disorders, which are a health issue for some young women and girls.
Kelly plans to do so by tacking the coverage on as an amendment to another healthcare bill expected to hit the House floor before it shuts down.