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Government, Politics & Issues

Legislative session ended Friday: Here's what's passed and what's died

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 15, 2012 - The Missouri General Assembly’s session adjourned Friday. While the GOP-controlled legislature has passed some noteworthy pieces of legislation, other bills deemed priorities have stumbled. This list will be updated throughout the week to reflect legislation that’s passed -- or passed away.

Bills that passed

Administrative rule review: Sen. Bob Dixon’s legislation stipulates that every administrative rule must receive a review from an appropriate state agency every five years. It also prompts the Department of Health and Senior Services to review and revise its regulations governing hospital licensure.

Arch tax: Rep. Todd Richardson’s bill permits the St. Louis Board of Aldermen and the county councils in St. Louis County and St. Charles County to put a 3/16th of 1 percent sales tax increase on the ballot. About 60 percent of the proceeds would go to the Great Rivers Greenway, while 40 percent would go to local parks. Funds to Great Rivers Greenway would be used for “enhancements” on the Arch grounds and developing trails throughout the region.

To go into effect, at least two of the three voting jurisdictions have to approve the proposal.

Asthma medications: Legislation sponsored by Rep. Sue Allen, R-Town and Country, would allow school nurses to administer certain asthma medications.

Car tax: House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan Silvey’s legislation would allow local communities to enact sales taxes on vehicles purchased out of state. The legislation is aimed at counteracting a Missouri Supreme Court ruling that stated that local taxes on boats, cars, trucks or motorcycles can’t be charged unless the tax had been voted on by the public if the vehicle was purchased out of state.

Cell phones placed on 'No Call' list: Legislators have approved a bill to allow cell phone users to add their number to the state's "no call" list, which already governs landlines.

Charter school expansion: Legislation from Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, would allow charter schools to operate where there are unaccredited school districts. The bill would also allow charter schools in provisionally accredited school districts under certain conditions.

Contraceptive coverage: Stripped of many provisions added on by the House, this bill, sponsored by state Sen. John Lamping, R-Ladue, says that employers cannot be required to provide insurance coverage for abortion, contraception or sterilization if such coverage violated their religious or ethical beliefs. No employees can be required to pay for such coverage in a group plan, if they held similar objections. This version largely reverts to Lamping original bill that passed the state Senate overwhelmingly in late March. It conflicts with the federal health-care law's provisions on contraceptive coverage.

County vacancies: Rep. Tony Dugger’s bill would allow a county commission to appoint an interim official when there’s a vacancy for county clerk, collector or assessor. That appointee would remain in that position until the governor appoints an official replacement.

Court plan amendment: Lawmakers approved a proposed constitutional amendment changing the state’s nonpartisan court plan, which selects judges for the Missouri Supreme Court and Missouri Court of Appeals. The amendment now goes on the November ballot. If voters approve, it would change the composition of the commission that provides nominees to the governor when vacancies arise.

Currently, the Appellate Judiciary Commission is composed of three lawyers elected by the Missouri Bar, three gubernatorial appointees and the chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court. The amendment would take the chief justice off the commission, give the governor four appointees and allow the governor to select all laypeople in a single term.

Crack cocaine charges: Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer’s legislation would make it a class A felony to "distribute, deliver, manufacture or produce" between 28 and 280 grams of crack cocaine. Currently, a person has to distribute, deliver, manufacture or produce between 2 and 6 grams of crack cocaine to be charged with such a felony.

Don’t Tread on Me plate: Legislation by state Rep. Chuck Gatschenberger, R-Lake Saint Louis, would alter some parameters around a “Don’t Tread on Me” license plate, which was authorized last year by the General Assembly. Besides specifying the plate's appearance, the bill requires a $15 fee in addition to the regular registration fees. It also states that there will be no additional fee to personalize the plate.

Elder abuse protections: State Sen. Kevin Engler’s legislation is aimed at protecting elderly residents against financial exploitation. Anybody who “who exercises authority over an elderly person or disabled person to take unfair advantage of that persons's vulnerable state of mind, neediness, pain, or agony” would be guilty of second-degree elder abuse.

Health-insurance exchanges: The bill bans the establishment, creation, or operation of a state-based health-insurance exchange” unless the voters or legislators approve it. The measure also “specifically prohibits the establishment of a state-based health-insurance exchange” by Gov. Jay Nixon, whose administration earlier had undertaken some technical activities in preparation for such an exchange before legislators blocked them.

The real target is the federal Affordable Care Act, the federal health-insurance law approved in 2010 and now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Made in Missouri: Rep. John Cauthorn’s legislation would require the Department of Administration to give preference to Missouri-made forest products and bricks when bids are comparable. 

Primary elections: Rep. Don Ruzicka’s bill would allow certain certain cities to cancel primary elections for mayor and city councilman.

Rabies vaccine: Sen. Dan Brown’s bill states that if someone is bitten or scratched by a dog or cat, the animal's owner must show proof of a rabies vaccination or surrender the pet to authorities. The animal would then be examined by a veterinarian, who could potentially euthanize the animal. 

Sentencing changes: Rep. Gary Fuhr’s bill – which passed by an overwhelming margin in both chambers – would shorten periods of probation and parole for some criminal offenders for good behavior. It would also impose 120-day “shock” incarceration for parole violations. Additionally, the legislation sets up a commission to monitor implementation of the new system.

St. Louis circuit clerk: Sen. Joe Keaveny’s legislation would transform the city’s circuit clerk from an elected position to one appointed by judges. 

State militia: Another bill sponsored by Day would allow the state’s adjunct general to waive the maximum age requirement for the state militia on a case-by-case basis. Currently, the maximum age requirement is 64 years old.

Student Travel Hardships: Sponsored by state Rep. Rodney Schad, R-Versailles, this bill allows public-school students to attend a school in the neighboring district if the student must travel 17 miles or more to go the nearest school in their current district, and the school in the neighboring district is at least seven miles closer. The bill is aimed at assisting some families in St. Albans, in Franklin County, who want to send their children to a closer school in the Rockwood School district in St. Louis County.

Veterans’ home funding: Legislators passed a bill last week that changed how the state’s veterans’ homes are funded. Rep. David Day’s bill would direct $30 million from casino boarding fees going to early childhood education to a trust fund for veterans’ homes. The bill also directs $35 million from the state's tobacco settlement to early childhood education and includes language prohibiting any agency from creating rules or operating a Quality Rating Systems for early childhood development.

Workers compensation: Legislation passed both chambers this week to revamp the state’s workers compensation system. Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed an earlier version of the bill. A sticking point was whether workers with occupational diseases should resolve their claims in the workers’ compensation system instead of circuit courts. The latest version does not have the occupational disease component.

Bills that died

Economic development incentives: House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, said last week that he was hopeful for movement for a scaled-down economic development package that includes incentives to encourage freight-forwarders to direct cargo traffic to Lambert St. Louis International Airport. That bill though may encounter resistence from some senators, such as Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau.

Ethics: Rep. Jason Kander – a Democratic candidate for secretary of state – offered up a bill to bar lobbyists' gifts, reinstitute limits on campaign donations, ban lawmakers from serving as political consultants, apply the state's sunshine law to individual lawmakers and establish a two-year ban on lobbying after leaving office. The bill didn’t make it out of committee, making it unlikely that it will pass this session.

House Majority Leader Tim Jones, R-Eureka, noted earlier this year that he didn't expect any ethics bills to pass this year. 

Federal health-care bill: Rep. Kurt Bahr’s bill would declare the federal health care passed in early 2010 to be unauthorized and would bar any public official or officer from enforcing the act.The legislation passed the House but died in the Senate.

Historic tax credits: The Missouri Senate passed legislation that would lower the cap of the Historic Preservation Tax Credit from $140 million to $75 million. It would also enact a tax credit aimed at attracting sporting events to the state and extend expiration dates of “benevolent” tax credits. Those include tax credits that encourage donations to pregnancy resource centers and food pantries.

Lieutenant governor: Lamping proposed a constitutional amendment to make governors and lieutenant governors run as a ticket, similarly to Illinois. The amendment failed to get out of the Senate and is not expected to pass this session.

Payday loans: In the midst of an initiative petition to cap substantially the interest rates for payday loans, legislators introduced legislation changing lending practices in the state. Both Keaveny and Sen. John Lamping, R-Ladue, put forward legislation that, among other things, barred individuals from taking out another loan if they have one outstanding. They would also allow a borrower to renew a loan only once.  Meanwhile, Rep. Mary Still’s legislation would have capped such loans at 36 percent, like the initiative petition.

None of these bills related to payday loans passed either chamber thus far, making it unlikely that anything on the topic will be passed before Friday.

Shortening the session: Lamping put forth a constitutional amendment to shorten the state’s legislative session from 18 to 12 weeks. Like his bid to pair the governor and lieutenant governor as a ticket, Lamping’s measure didn’t pass either chamber.

Tanning restrictions: Legislation from Rep. Gary Cross, R-Lee’s Summit, would prompt parents to provide in-person written permission to authorize minors under the age of 17 to use tanning salons.

Tenure: Lawmakers introduced legislation at the beginning of the session that would have dramatically scaled back tenure for public school teachers. That bill sponsored by Rep. Scott Dieckhaus, R-Washington, ended up being narrowed to a provision that would not offer seniority protections when conducting layoffs.

Beacon political reporter Jo Mannies contributed information to this story.

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