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Government, Politics & Issues

Nixon signs $27.2 billion state budget into law and 2 more ethics bills

Marshall Griffin|St. Louis Public Radio

The rest of Missouri's budget for the next fiscal year has been signed into law.

Last week, Gov. Jay Nixon signed the budget bill for the Department of Higher Education into law, and on Thursday he signed into law the budget bill for the departments of Mental Health and Health and Senior Services. On Friday, he sign the remaining budget bills into law.

Nixon, a Democrat, praised Republican legislative leaders for getting all 13 budget bills to him on time, but he also criticized them for not spending as much on K-12 schools as he had recommended. He's also not happy that GOP leaders rejected $8 million from Washington in order to bar Planned Parenthood from receiving money from Medicaid.

"I'm concerned about its potential to reduce access to women's health services, while spending an additional $8 million in state general revenue, dollars that could have gone to our schools," Nixon told reporters. "We will continue to analyze the legal ramifications of this language, and work to ensure that we continue to provide access to essential health services."

Nixon did make two line-item vetoes, including a $375,000 allocation to the World War Two Memorial Trust Fund, which he says would have been an illegal use of that money.

He also vetoed $500,000 from the Department of Social Services for "funding connections" between DSS and the Missouri Health Connection.

"The language added places conditions on health information exchange services that would unfairly exempt (some) providers from the requirement to pay for such services as called for under existing contracts," Nixon said.

Nixon did not make any temporary funding restrictions, commonly known as withholds, but said he would continue to review the state's finances in case it becomes necessary later.

Two more ethics bills become law

Nixon also signed House Bill 1979, which creates a six-month cooling-off period before former elected officials can become lobbyists. Earlier versions of the bill had sought a one-year and one-full-session waiting period. It was sponsored by Rep. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia.

"The final product, it's not perfect by everyone's individual standards, but I do think it moves the ball definitely in the right direction," Rowden said in a recent interview.

Nixon also signed into law House Bill 2203, which requires lobbyists who used to hold public office to liquidate their campaign committees. He says he hopes lawmakers send him a few more ethics bills before session ends next Friday.

"I think the gift ban is gettable," Nixon said. "I think it's in the zone that it can get passed."

Meanwhile, House Bill 1575 is still awaiting Senate approval. It would require elected officials to disclose travel expenses that were paid by a third party within 30 days.

Last month, Nixon signed House Bill 1983 into law, which bars elected officials from hiring each other as paid political consultants.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

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