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Missouri Senate works on student transfer fix and unemployment compensation bill

UPI/Bill Greenblatt

The Missouri Senate spent nearly four hours Monday night working on two bills that they chose not to vote on yet.

The first one was House Bill 42, the proposed fix to the state's student transfer law.  The Senate added several amendments, including one that would provide incentives for receiving districts that charge no more than 70 percent of a sending district’s tuition and take in at least 25 transfer students. It was sponsored by David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, who's handling HB 42 in the Senate.

He said that for the first two years, receiving districts that "meet or exceed targets established by state accountability system ... shall earn additional credit in academic achievements on its annual performance report."

After more than 90 minutes of debate, the bill was sent back to the Senate's fiscal oversight committee so it could examine how much money the extra language would cost.  What the House passed last month had an estimated $25 million price tag.  The original Senate version of the bill would cost more than $200 million.

The Senate could hold a 3rd-read vote on HB 42 later this week.  It would then head back to the House, which can accept the Senate changes and send the bill to Gov. Jay Nixon, or reject them and appoint conferees to negotiate a final version with the Senate.

Unemployment compensation

The Missouri Senate is also considering legislation that would tie jobless benefits to the state's unemployment rate.

Currently, those who are out of work are eligible for up to 20 weeks of unemployment compensation.  Under House Bill 150, the jobless rate would have to be 9 percent or higher for someone to get 20 weeks of benefits, and it would drop to 13 weeks if the jobless rate dips below 6 percent.

Senate President Pro-tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, says the bill would provide much-needed relief for small business owners in Missouri.

"It is the businesses that provide the unemployment benefits; remember, the state benefits are on top of the federal benefits for unemployment," Dempsey told reporters after the Senate adjourned. "In the last recession, the federal government extended the number of federal weeks, so you had, I think, at one point almost two years' worth of unemployment coverage available for people ...  we think that the bill that we're putting forward is reasonable."

If HB 150 becomes law, the amount of time someone could receive state unemployment benefits would be structured into an eight-tier system:

  • 20 weeks if Missouri's average unemployment rate is 9 percent or higher
  • 19 weeks if it's between 8.5 percent and 9 percent
  • 18 weeks if it's from 8 percent up to and including 8.5 percent
  • 17 weeks if it's between 7.5 percent and 8 percent
  • 16 weeks if it's from 7 percent up to and including 7.5 percent
  • 15 weeks if it's between 6.5 percent and 7 percent
  • 14 weeks if it's from 6 percent up to and including 6.5 percent
  • 13 weeks if it's below 6 percent

Sen. Scott Sifton, D-Affton, strongly opposed the bill and offered an amendment that would have expanded the number of weeks the unemployed could receive state jobless benefits:

  • 30 weeks if Missouri's unemployment rate is 6 percent or higher
  • 25 weeks if it's between 5.99 percent and 4.5 percent
  • 20 weeks if it's under 4.5 percent

"By limiting benefits, especially when unemployment is higher, we're going to make bad recessions worse, Sifton said.
However, that amendment was defeated on a voice vote.

After about two hours and 15 minutes of debate, the bill was sent to the Senate's fiscal oversight committee. There's no word on when a floor vote might take place.

Nixon vetoed a similar bill last year, and an override attempt failed in the Missouri House. This year's bill has no major changes from 2014, but Dempsey believes there is enough votes this time to override a potential veto, due to the larger Republican majority in the House.

"I think we've got the numbers," Dempsey said.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.

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