Missouri lawmakers return to Jefferson City this week for the 2011 legislative session. There’ll be many new faces, thanks to term limits, along with new leaders for both the State House and Senate. And Republicans now hold a veto-proof majority in the Senate and fall only three votes short of one in the House. St. Louis Public Radio’s Marshall Griffin takes a closer look at the major issues they’ll be facing this year.
Good morning! Here are some of today's starting headlines:
According to the St. Louis Post- Dispatch, incoming Missouri speaker of the House Steve Tilley says he may refuse to seat a new representative from Kansas City because of allegations of voter fraud in the Democratic primary. Such a move is allowed under Missouri law, but is rare. The Post-Dispatch reports that Tilley was presented this month with a nearly 100 page document alleging widespread voter fraud from failed Democrat candidate Will Royster, who lost he primary in the 40th legislative district to John J. Rizzo by a single vote. Rizzo went on to win the general election against a Libertarian candidate. Tilley's move would cast a light on a a topic Republicans in Missouri have been pushing unsuccessfully for several years; the concept of requiring every voter to present a photo ID when voting. Rizzo called Royster's complaints "sour grapes."
Missouri lawmakers are again seeking ideas from the public for restructuring state government to cut costs. Las year, the Senate took a rare break from formal floor debates to consider ideas for restructuring stat government that were submitted by Missourians. Republican Senate leader Rob Mayer says he plans to do it again in the first weeks of the annual legislative session that starts next month. Mayer, of Dexter, says lawmakers need to consider any idea about how to cut spending. Ideas can be submitted anonymously online at a Senate Web page on rebooting state government.
2011 will see some major work on the Eads Bridge over the Mississippi River. Metro, which owns the bridge, says time and weather have deteriorated the 136-year-old structure. Metro President John Nations says the agency will use $24.5 million in federal stimulus funds to replace and repair structural elements on the bridge, as well as apply a protective coating on the steel.
"We'll also be doing some improvements to our tracks in that area to also enhance our system. So it's going to be a big project and the region, I know, is interested in it. I actually get asked about it a lot simply because the Eads Bridge is such a big symbol for this region and for the Midwest. " - Nations
Nations says the road on the top deck of the Eads will have to be closed for two to three months while the work on the bridge takes place.
The incoming Speaker of the Missouri House is hinting of a battle with Governor Jay Nixon over tax credits.
A committee appointed by the Democratic governor has recommended eliminating nearly half of the state's tax credit programs. House Speaker-elect Steven Tilley (R, Perryville) says he has doubts about the accuracy of the tax credit committee report.
"My preliminary evaluation of it is (that) they've used false data and incorrect conclusions to come up with the recommendations," Tilley told reporters at a press conference today.