Mon January 17, 2011
Morning headlines: Mo. House to debate priority measures, uncertainty in the midst of Quinn's decision on capital punishment, Pujols says he wants to end career in STL
Missouri House leaders hope to start debate in the full chamber on two of their priority measures this week. One bill would require drug-testing for people who receive cash welfare payments. The other would offer small businesses a $10,000 tax deduction for each full-time job they create with a salary at least as high as the county's average wage. The tax deduction would double if the business also pays half of its workers' health insurance premiums. Speaker Steven Tilley, a Republican from Perryville, says the House likely will focus on both bills this week. Lawmakers are on a tight schedule. They're off today for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and Gov. Jay Nixon is scheduled to deliver his State of the State speech Wednesday night.
Missouri lawmakers are promising a new effort to shield mourning families from funeral demonstrators. A federal judge last year declared unconstitutional two Missouri laws banning or restricting funeral protests. Lawmakers say they plan to try again with proposals that balance free speech rights of protesters with the privacy concerns of family members attending a funeral. Nonetheless, the goal appears to be largely the same: Keep demonstrators and mourners as far apart as possible. Lawmakers have sharply criticized funeral picketing and the protesters who conduct them. Critics of the protest bans contend that the government cannot bar peaceful speech on a public sidewalk simply because it does not like the speaker's message.
The uncertainty over Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn's pending decision on whether to end capital punishment for good has raised a number of questions about the state's current death penalty cases and the 15 men on death row. A bill recently passed by the state House and Senate would abolish the death penalty as of July 1. However, there are no guarantees the governor will sign it. Quinn supports the death penalty but has also kept in place the moratorium on capital punishment. Quinn's decision could come any time after the law is certified by the General Assembly. He is being lobbied hard by death penalty opponents, prosecutors and victim's rights groups. The situation has created a period of uncertainty for prosecutors and defense attorneys with pending death penalty cases, as well as those on death row.
Albert Pujols says he wants to end his career with the St. Louis Cardinals but is declining to provide an update on negotiations for a new long-term contract. Pujols' agent has said he will cut off talks at the start of spring training if an agreement is not in place. A representative of Pujols' agent deflected questions on the topic at a news conference on Sunday. The three-time NL MVP, who turned 31 on Sunday, has played his entire 10-year career in St. Louis. Pujols says he's in better shape than in recent seasons when he was hindered by injuries, and excited about the changes the team has made.