Missouri General Assembly 2016

(via Flickr/Tracy O)

The Missouri Senate has expanded one of the proposed ethics bills passed by the House in January.

Originally, House Bill 2203 required that any money held by former lawmakers be held in bank accounts that could make that money readily available.  It was part of the House Republican leadership's approach to reforming Missouri's ethics system.

(via Flickr/Mooganic)

Updated 3/3/2016 - Legislation designed to expand the sales of cold beer in the Show-Me State is now on tap in the Missouri House.

The Senate on Thursday voted 18-14 to pass Senate Bill 919, with support and opposition coming from both sides of the political aisle.

The bill would allow beer companies to lease portable refrigeration units to grocers and convenience stores, and allow those same stores to sell beer in reusable containers known as growlers.

A photo of the Boone Bridge taken from the St. Charles County side of the Missouri River.
Missouri Department of Transportation St. Charles County camera

Transportation issues, including the possibility of raising the state's fuel tax, are expected to get a lot of attention this week from the Missouri Senate.

Senate Bill 623 would raise the tax on gasoline by 1.5 cents a gallon, and the tax on diesel fuel by 3.5 cents a gallon. Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, says he'll allow the bill's sponsor as much time has he wants to make his case.

human trafficking
FBI website

Senate Bill 804 would make it illegal to advertise the availability of a child for sex. It would also make it illegal to advertise the availability of an adult for sex without her or his consent, a provision that was not included in a similar bill last year.

A kit containing the opioid overdose antidote naloxone.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

Legislation that would expand access to Narcan, a medicine that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, is being weighed by a Missouri Senate committee. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Steven Lynch, R-Pulaski County, says this is just one aspect of statewide drug policy reform.

“Narcan is not a solution for this epidemic, it is a rescue remedy to keep people alive until we can figure out how to deal with the complex problem of drug addition, use, and treatment,” said Lynch.

Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, is one of six lawmakers who is suing to stop Gov. Jay Nixon from extending bonds for a new stadium by fiat.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

The ethics reform freight train that began rolling in the Missouri House has slowed down in the Senate.

Nearly a week after erasing language that would have created a one-year cooling off period before former lawmakers could become lobbyists, the Senate has put the brakes on a House bill to ban lobbyist gifts.

People mill in the hallway leading to the Missouri Senate chamber. The Missouri Senate often moves slower than the Missouri House -- and can also be where the fiercest legislative fights occur.
File photo by Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

At the tail end of a recent episode of the Politically Speaking podcast, state Sen. Jill Schupp was asked a fairly straightforward question: Had her colleagues learned anything from the resignations of John Diehl and Paul LeVota, two lawmakers who stepped down last year amid accusations of inappropriate behavior toward female interns?

The Creve Coeur Democrat provided a pessimistic response:

Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications

The top budget writer in the Missouri House is pledging to cut more than $8 million from the University of Missouri System next year.

In a statement released Tuesday, House Budget Committee chair Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, says the vast bulk of his proposed cuts, $7.6 million, will target the overall University of Missouri System.

The Missouri Capitol Building at dusk
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

I usually start off this column with a snappy quote, noteworthy anecdote or a rather tenuous connection to a 50 Cent song.

But after experiencing a very, very, very eventful week in Jefferson City filling in for St. Louis Public Radio’s Marshall Griffin, I thought it might be worthwhile to trot out some loose observations that might have fallen through the cracks:

Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, strongly questioned whether the legislature was taking the right focus with its ethics overhaul.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Since a high-profile sex scandal was partly responsible for torpedoing the end of the 2015 session, some lawmakers have made improving the ethical climate of Jefferson City a priority.

But even though the Missouri House passed a flurry of bills early this session, some Missouri senators think the ethics push so far is missing the mark.

c_ambler | Flickr

Members of public employee unions would have to provide written consent each year to have union fees deducted from paychecks, according to legislation passed by the Missouri House Thursday.

"This is historic," said state Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Charleston and the bill's sponsor. "I think it's great labor reform. ... It makes the union leader provide a service to the worker." Because people would have to affirm the deduction, the legislation has been called the paycheck protection act.

University of Missouri system President Mike Middleton prepares to testify Wednesday before the Joint Committee on Education.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

After nationally watched protests over race relations and the departure of key officials, the leaders of the University of Missouri system promised lawmakers that change is on the way.

But legislators on the Joint Committee on Education questioned whether the four-campus system’s direction was truly righted – especially since a controversial professor is still employed at Mizzou.

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, speaks at a Wednesday press conference Lesley McSpadden. McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown, wants the legislature to help expand the use of body cameras for law enforcement.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

When then-Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, the policeman wasn’t wearing a body camera. And the uncertainty that followed provided a spark of sorts for programs to help law enforcement get the devices.

But Missouri did not pass legislation last year that would assist local police departments pay for body cameras – and provide guidelines for when footage is released. On Wednesday the issue returned with lawmakers receiving encouragement from Lesley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown.

Rep. Don Gosen, R-Ballwin, resigned suddenly from the Missouri House on Wednesday.
Tim Bommel I House Communications

A GOP state representative from Ballwin has resigned suddenly for unspecified personal reasons.

It’s the latest reverberation for a legislature still reeling from scandals that led to two resignations last session.

Sen. David Pearce presents his bill capping campaign contributions Tuesday during the Senate Rules Committee.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri lawmakers have spent the first part of the session angling to overhaul the state’s ethics regulations. But for at least one Republican lawmaker, one issue has been absent from the discussion: capping campaign contributions.

The Edward Jones Dome
Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

A House appropriations subcommittee stripped out the $12 million state appropriation that primarily pays off the Edward Jones Dome’s debt.

And while the legislative budget process is far from over, it does place half of the facility’s yearly debt payments into jeopardy.

The Missouri Senate is poised to pass the first major set of bills of the season: Six ethics bills are scheduled for a vote on the Senate floor Monday.

Sen. Jill Schupp
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, Sen. Jill Schupp returns to the show for the third time to talk about the Missouri General Assembly’s fast start.

The Creve Coeur Democrat was elected to the 24th District Senate, which encompasses more than 20 municipalities in St. Louis County. Schupp is part of an eight-person Democratic caucus that’s seen its influence wane as the GOP made gains in the General Assembly’s upper chamber.

Sen. Jill Schupp, at the podium, introduces The Missouri Earned Family and Medical Leave Program.
Mallory Daily | St. Louis Public Radio intern

Two Democratic legislators from St. Louis County, Rep. Tracy McCreery and Sen. Jill Schupp, are introducing The Missouri Earned Family and Medical Leave Program. 

President Bill Clinton’s Family and Medical Leave Act has been around for 23 years. And these two legislators think it’s time for a change. 

The Missouri Senate Judiciary Committee is weighing a series of new bills that aim for criminal justice reform. One would increase educational and job opportunities for inmates.

(WhiteHouse.gov video screen capture)
(WhiteHouse.gov video screen capture)

The Missouri House is thumbing its nose at President Obama. The Republican-controlled chamber passed a resolution Wednesday asking Congress to reject his recent executive order requiring tighter gun control measures.

The order, issued last month, contains more than 20 actions. They include requiring all businesses that sell guns to be licensed and requiring them to conduct background checks on buyers at gun shows and over the internet.

Sen. Paul Wieland, R-Imperial
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

A bill that would have abolished Missouri's death penalty has unofficially become the first bill to die during the 2016 legislative session.

Paul Wieland, R-Imperial, is Senate Bill 816's sponsor. He told reporters he knows there aren't enough votes in the Senate to abolish the death penalty, but calls Monday's debate on the floor a victory in itself.

Missouri House Committee on Workforce Standards hears legislation that would eliminate Missouri's prevailing wage for public works projects.
Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

Legislation being considered by a Missouri House committee would dump the state's prevailing wage for public works projects.

This base wage is set annually for a variety of jobs. It is calculated using what workers are actually earning. House Bill 1931's sponsor, Rep. Warren Love, R-Osceola, says it would allow contractors to start negotiations for salaries at minimum wage instead.

(via Missouri Department of Transportation)

Gov. Jay Nixon and House and Senate leaders are squabbling over how to approach Missouri's transportation needs.

Nixon, a Democrat, and some Republican lawmakers want to raise the state's fuel tax to help fund roads and bridges, but GOP leaders oppose tax hikes and want to shift state funding to transportation from other programs, including welfare.

Larry Fitzgerald catches a touchdown pass at the 2009 Pro Bowl.
Wikipedia

While Gov. Jay Nixon called for regulating daily sports fantasy sites in his State of the State Address last month, a Missouri House committee is weighing a bill that would do the exact opposite.

House Bill 1941 would exempt those websites from the state's legal definition of gambling. It's sponsored by Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob. He says fantasy sports involves skill and is not a game of chance.

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

A Missouri House committee is considering yet another proposal to loosen the state’s universal helmet law for motorcyclists. State Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, is sponsoring a bill (HB 1464) that would allow motorcyclists over the age of 21 to opt out of wearing a helmet if they meet certain requirements.

snebtor | Flickr

Owners of the best agricultural lands in Missouri will not see their taxes going up in 2017 and 2018.

The Missouri House and Senate have both passed a measure blocking a 5 percent tax hike on lands graded "1 through 4." That amounts to one-third of the state's most productive farmlands. The increase was authorized in December by the State Tax Commission and would have automatically taken effect without legislative action to stop it.

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

A Missouri Senate committee has passed a revised version of a bill that would eliminate the earnings tax in St. Louis.

This version of SB 575 would phase out the earnings tax in St. Louis over a 10-year period but would allow Kansas City to keep its earnings tax.

A rendering of the proposed riverfront stadium
Courtesy of HOK

Two more ethics bills are headed to the Missouri Senate after passing through the House today. That makes six that have gone on to the Senate. 

These are both sponsored by Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, and fit into a stated legislative goal of improving government oversight and accountability.

Gina Mitten
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies welcome state Rep. Gina Mitten to help break down Gov. Jay Nixon’s final State of the State address.

A Democrat, Mitten is a lawyer and resides in Richmond Heights. Before she was elected to the General Assembly in 2012, she spent eight years on the Richmond Heights City Council. She received her law degree from Washington University.

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