Capital Reports, November 9, 2012

In Legislative News, Missouri Press News On
- Updated

MPANewsBook: Statehouse News for MPA Members
Go to http://www.mdn.org/mpanews for the latest version.

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Headline:  Nixon braces for veto-proof majority [Entered: 11/09/2012]
By Christine Roto and By Eric Stoyanov

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon said Thursday, Nov. 8, that he will not change the way he governs in his second term despite having to contend with veto-proof majorities in both chambers of Missouri’s General Assembly.

The GOP will have its first ever two-thirds majority in the General Assembly when the legislature enters session in January.

The Republicans lost two seats in the Senate but will still hold 24 seats with the Democrats controlling the remaining 10 seats.

Republicans faired better in the House, gaining four seats. The GOP won 110 seats in the House with the Democrats taking 53 seats. To override a veto from Gov. Nixon, Republicans need only 23 seats in the Senate and 109 in the House.

House Speaker Tim Jones, R-St. Louis County, issued a challenge to the governor on Nov. 7, saying Nixon will have to work better with the legislature than he has in the past.

“The governor will need to understand the importance of true, actual negotiation during the legislative process as the ‘checkmate’ that he possesses, in the form of a veto, is now equaled by the overwhelming numbers that we have in the House and the Senate,” Jones said.

When asked to respond to Jones’ comment, Nixon said he does not approach his position in a partisan way and will “continue to work with members of both sides of the aisle.”

“Being the chief executive of the state has many things that are broader or different than that, and they take a tremendous amount of energy,” Nixon said in regard to working with the legislature.

The Senate’s new top leader, Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, did not specifically reiterate Jones’ stance Thursday, but said he hopes to work productively with the governor.

“We’ll encourage the governor to communicate with us, and we’ll certainly extend my hand to communicate with him, so that these priorities that are so critical to the state of Missouri are accomplished,” Dempsey said.

During the 2012 legislative session, Dempsey repeatedly said he would have liked more input from the governor’s office on important legislative issues, such as changes to the state’s workers’ compensation laws and fully funding Missouri’s K-12 education foundation formula.

Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, also weighed in after being elected the leader of her caucus.

Justus said she has a great relationship with the governor and hopes to continue that relationship as the leader of the Senate’s minority caucus.

“Obviously we all know that the governor plays his cards very close to the vest, and that’s how he governs,” Justus said.

* Get the projected party lineup [ http://www.mdn.org/cgi-bin/elect/vote.exe?ELECTION=G2012&CO=&SE=&HO=&MDN=Y&HLINE=Y&SLINE=Y&TI= ] .

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Headline:  Missouri lawmakers select legislative leaders for next session
[Entered: 11/09/2012]

By Jordan Shapiro
With a veto-proof majority, House Republicans elected their chamber leaders during a closed-door meeting Wednesday, Nov. 7.

Current House Speaker Tim Jones, R-St. Louis County, was tapped to run the House in the next legislative session. Jones became Speaker in September when former Speaker Steve Tilley resigned to become a lobbyist.

The House Republicans also elected Rep. John Diehl, R-St. Louis County, as their majority leader. Diehl will control the flow of legislation on the House floor next session.

Another St. Louis County lawmaker, Rep. Rick Stream, was tapped to head the powerful House Budget Committee.

This is the first time since 1930 the Republicans have controlled a two-thirds majority in the state House.

Senate Republicans selected their leadership Thursday, Nov. 8, to run the veto-proof GOP majority in a closed-door caucus meeting.

A former state House Speaker, Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, was elected the Senate’s Republican floor leader after serving only two years in the chamber.

Before being elected to the Missouri Senate in 2010, Richard served eight years in the state House. He was chosen as House speaker after the 2008 elections.

Senate Republicans also picked Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Louis County, to serve as president pro tem. Dempsey was previously the Senate’s floor leader.

Democrats in both the House and Senate also Thursday, Nov. 8, to select their leaders. The Senate chose Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, to be their minority floor leader and the House chose Rep. Jacob Hummel, D-St. Louis City, to lead its caucus.

Justus is the first openly gay lawmaker to win a leadership post.

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Headline: Sen. Claire McCaskill wins re-election to U.S. Senate [Entered: 11/06/2012]

By Taylor Beck and By Katie Kreider

Incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill won re-election against Republican challenger Todd Akin.

“They all said ‘it’s over, it’s done, it’s just too red. There is no way Claire McCaskill can survive,'” the incumbent said during her victory speech. “Well you know what happened? You proved them wrong.”

McCaskill beat the St. Louis congressman by 55 percent to 39 percent. McCaskill won both urban and rural counties and received almost the same number of Missouri votes as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who carried the state by a wide margin.

Akin gave his concession speech at his Chesterfield watch party Tuesday night, using the time to thank his supporters.
“And I believe in my heart of hearts, that as long as we have the courage to stand for what’s right and what’s good even when its very difficult to do, this republic will continue to bring hope to the world and truly be that shining city on the sea,” Akin said.

McCaskill ran on her record as a “moderate” in the heavily partisan U.S. Senate and capitalized off several gaffes from her opponent.

She was considered one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators in the country at the beginning of the election cycle. This changed, however, after her opponent made comments suggesting women could prevent pregnancy from “legitimate rape.”

Despite a large financial disparity, Akin defeated his main Republicans rivals, Sarah Steelman and John Brunner, in the August primary, but he struggled after the victory. McCaskill inserted herself into the Republican primary by running a set of ads aimed individually against Brunner, Steelman and Akin.

The congressman gained national notoriety after his comments on rape and abortion. Support for Akin quickly shrunk as fellow Republicans soon called on Akin to exit the race. Conservative groups such as Crossroads GPS and the National Republican Senatorial Committee pulled their support and money from Missouri.

Akin was able to slightly overcome the damage to his campaign after the September deadline for him to drop out of the race passed. A Mason-Dixon poll sponsored by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Kansas City Star released Oct. 26 showed McCaskill with only a 2-point lead over Akin.

In October, McCaskill reported raising almost $16 million for her campaign against Akin’s $4 million tally.

As the campaign entered its final stages on Oct. 29, McCaskill’s mother, Betty Anne McCaskill, died at age 84.

“There is one person missing off this stage tonight, and I just gotta tell you–Mom, this one’s for you,” McCaskill said during her speech.

McCaskill’s second term will last until 2018. She was first elected to the U.S. Senate during the Democratic wave of 2006, defeating incumbent Republican Jim Talent.

Missouri’s U.S. House incumbents seeking re-election all won their races.

Democratic Reps. Lacy Clay and Emanuel Cleaver won their districts decisively against Republican challengers. Incumbent GOP Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer, Vicky Hartzler, Sam Graves and Jo Ann Emerson also won.

The one open seat in the state — a suburban St. Louis and St. Charles counties district — was won handily by Republican and former U.S. Ambassador Ann Wagner. Wagner’s district was formerly held by Akin, who did not seek re-election to challenge Sen. McCaskill.

One incumbent not on the ballot — Democratic U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan — was defeated by Clay in the August Primary after Carnahan’s district was eliminated by the Republican-controlled General Assembly in 2011.

Missouri lost one congressional seat after the state’s population grew at a slower rate than other states. Missouri will send six Republicans and two Democrats to the next Congress that opens in January.

This is the first time since the Civil War Missouri will send less than nine members to the U.S. House.

* Get the print story.[ http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/SENELX1.HTM ]
* Get MDN’s election results [ http://www.mdn.org/cgi-bin/elect/vote.exe?ELECTION=G2012&PR0=Y&ST0=Y&CALL=Y&CO=&SALL=Y&SE=&HALL=Y&HO=&MDN=Y&TI= ] .

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Headline:  Jay Nixon wins second term as governor [Entered: 11/09/2012]

By Nick Thompson and By Danielle Carter

Missouri voters re-elected Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon for a second term. Nixon defeated Republican challenger Dave Spence 54 percent to 43 percent.

“We have done a lot these last four years, but we are just getting started,” Nixon said.

Nixon defeated Republican Kenny Hulshof in 2008 to win his first term.

“I will keep working to make Missouri the best place to live, work, and raise a family,” Nixon said during his victory speech.

Nixon’s challenger ran a hard line on jobs and the economy, trying to paint the governor as a job killer. In his first campaign for public office, Spence ran as a job-creating manufacturer with the ability to bring jobs to Missouri.

The Nixon campaign attacked Spence for his role on the board of a St. Louis bank that took federal bailout funds and did not pay them back. Spence retaliated against the governor and labeled him a liberal career politician, who is too friendly to unions and trial lawyers.

Nixon’s career of public service began in 1986 when he was elected to his first term in the Missouri Senate. Nixon served four terms as attorney general before being elected governor.

Nixon racked up big margins in St. Louis City, St. Louis County and in Kansas City, but he also took the Republican-stronghold of Greene County (Springfield) and many other rural counties.

Spence conceded the race to Nixon a few hours after Missouri polls closed.

“Don’t lose hope because we didn’t win,” Spence said in his concession speech. “Because it takes courage, it takes responsibility, it takes almost everything you have to do this, but it’s worth it. Because we are Missourians, and we care deeply about our state.”

Throughout the campaign Spence criticized Nixon’s’ handling of economic development policy, and he blamed him for the failure of an economic development project in Moberly. He said Nixon owed Moberly and the state an apology. However, Nixon fired back at Spence, blaming him for mismanagement of Troubled Asset Relief Program funds at Reliance Bancshares.

Nixon’s term will expire in 2016 when he will be ineligible to seek a third term as governor.

“Tonight we celebrate, and tomorrow we get back to work,” Nixon said.

All other statewide incumbents won their re-election bids. Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder became the second lieutenant governor to win a third consecutive term since World War II. Democratic incumbents Treasurer Clint Zweifel and Attorney General Chris Koster also won their bids.

Democratic state Rep. Jason Kander of Kansas City won the contest to replace retiring Secretary of State Robin Carnahan defeating Republican state Rep. Shane Schoeller.

* Get the print story [ http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/NIXVIC.HTM ] .
* Get the statewide office results [ http://www.mdn.org/cgi-bin/elect/vote.exe?ELECTION=G2012&ST0=Y&CO=&SE=&HO=&MDN=Y&TI= ] .

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Headline:  Missourians defeat cigarette tax for third time in a decade [Entered: 11/09/2012]

By Wes Duplantier

For the third time in a decade, Missouri voters have voted down an increase in the state’s tobacco tax, opting to instead keep the nation’s lowest state cigarette tax rate at 17 cents per pack.

By a margin of 51-49, Missourians rejected Proposition B, a proposal to increase the tobacco tax to about 90 cents per pack. Similar proposed tax hikes were defeated in 2002 and 2006.

“We’re obviously thrilled and grateful but not surprised by the result,” said Ron Leone, the executive director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketing and Convenience Store Association, noting the past defeats of similar measures.

The measure had been expected to generate as much as $423 million in additional state tax revenue each year. That money would have been divided three ways — 50 percent to elementary and secondary education, 30 percent to public higher education and 20 percent to fund programs aimed at preventing people from using tobacco products.

But those extra funds would have come from the pockets of the estimated 25 percent of Missourians who smoke. And the businesses who sell to those smokers — mostly gas stations and convenience stores — led the charge against Proposition B.

Gas stations around the state used signs displaying their prices to plead with voters to reject the tax, which they saw as a direct threat to their bottom line.

“The one thing [the pro-Prop B groups] couldn’t replicate or buy was our ground game,” Leone said.

A key difference in this year’s campaign from years past was the lack of opposition from manufacturers of widely known cigarette brands, known colloquially as “Big Tobacco.” That left the pro-tax side better funded than the opponents.

Those large tobacco companies took their voices — and campaign dollars — out of the fight because of a provision in Proposition B that changes the amount of tax revenue lesser-known cigarette brands have to pay to the state.

Democratic lawmakers have been among the most prominent voices in supporting a cigarette tax increase throughout all three efforts. State Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, gave $10,000 to a campaign in favor of the measure and participated in a forum on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia where he outlined the benefits of the tax.

Democrats met at The Blue Note restaurant in Columbia to watch the state’s voting returns roll in Tuesday night. Walking out of the watch party in Columbia with about half of the state’s precincts counted Tuesday night, Kelly said he was disappointed that the measure was trailing.

“It’s a pretty clear message,” he said before leaving the party.

While rejecting an increase to the state’s cigarette tax, Missourians approved two other proposals Tuesday night.

Voters approved Proposition A, which grants St. Louis local control of its police force for the first time since the Civil War. Missourians also approved Proposition E, which restricts the governor from implementing a health care exchange in the state without a vote of the people or legislative approval.

Missourians also rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have changed the selection process for appellate judges. The amendment would have given the governor more control over the selection of state Supreme and Appeals Court judges. It also would have changed the composition of the seven-member panel responsible for interviewing and selecting judicial candidates to submit to the governor to fill a court vacancy.

* Get the print story[ http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/PROPBELX.HTM ]
* Get the ballot measure results [ http://www.mdn.org/cgi-bin/elect/vote.exe?ELECTION=G2012&PR0=Y&CO=&SE=&HO=&MDN=Y&TI= ]

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Headline:  Nixon, Republicans reject state-based health exchange [Entered: 11/09/2012]

By Christine Roto and By Eric Stoyanov

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and Republican legislative leaders have come to the conclusion that Missouri will not operate a state-based health exchange.

At a press conference Thursday, Nov. 8, Nixon said Missouri will not operate its own web-based marketplace where consumers can compare different health insurance plans.

States have until Nov. 16 to tell the federal government whether or not they will create their own exchange or adopt a federal model. The Affordable Care Act mandates that states establish their own exchange or adopt the federal government’s plan. If the state is unable to proceed or refuses to implement an exchange, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department will move forward on a federally facilitated exchange.

Nixon said his administration is unable to move on an exchange, as 62 percent of voters approved Proposition E, which constrained his authority to do so. Nixon also blamed the General Assembly for not moving forward on an exchange.

“Over the past two years, the General Assembly has shown an unwillingness to address the issue of exchanges,” Nixon said.

The state House approved a bill to develop an exchange in the 2011 legislative session, but it never made it to Nixon’s desk. Nixon said a federally run exchange is not the ideal approach for Missouri.

“Regulating the insurance market is a power best left in the hands of the states,” Nixon said at the press conference. “We can perform these duties more efficiently and effectively and provide better service for our consumers.”

But, Nixon said the only option now for Missouri is to have the federal government run its exchange.

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Headline:  Voter turnout down from the 2008 election. [Entered: 11/07/2012]

By Alexander Mallin

The turnout for Tuesday’s election was 4 percent lower than the November 2008 election.

The Missouri Secretary of State’s office had projected a 72 percent voter turnout, but only 2.7 million people — 65 percent of registered voters — showed up to the polls.

The Secretary of State’s office accumulated the projected turnout after all 114 counties and St. Louis City sent in voter turnout projections, and they predicted 72 percent of registered voters would vote — a 3 percent increase from 2008.

Osage County in central Missouri had the highest voter turnout with 72 percent of registered voters. But, that mark was still a 4 percent drop in that county from the 2008 election.

Sullivan County in north central Missouri had the second lowest turnout with just over 52 percent. County Clerk Jackie Morris said this was an improvement from what she projected.

“I projected less than 50 percent,” Morris said. “We only had three local races that were contested.”

This election’s turnout was half a percent higher than the 2004 election.

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Headline:  Capitol Perspectives: Learning to be Winners and Losers [Entered: 11/09/2012]

By Phill Brooks

Members of Congress in Washington should take a look at Missouri if they’re really serious about post-election promises to end the gridlock that has stymied the federal government.

In Missouri, political leaders have found way to work together in a government divided between the two political parties. Policy differences still exist, but there’s a degree of cordiality that has been missing in Washington in recent years.

This partisan harmony did not come easy or quickly in Missouri. Rather, it took time for Democrats to accept their minority legislative status and for Republicans to learn to temper their use of power.

When I started covering Missouri’s statehouse, Democrats had a hammer lock on the legislature. Until the early 1980s, they enjoyed veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate. Republicans accepted their minority role in the legislature.

I still vividly recall the embarrassment displayed by the House Republican leader, Bus King, when one of his top aides charged the administration of Democrat Warren Hearnes with distorting tax collection figures.

The charge eventually proved to be true. But that wasn’t the point. Rather, the point was that Republicans did not rock the boat.

That attitude of accepting minority status began to change as Republican numbers began to grow. And when they finally got control of the legislature a decade ago, they ruled with an iron hand.

Social conservative issues were pushed with repeated votes to shut off Democratic filibusters in the Senate.

Democrats were just as disagreeable. The Democratic Senate leader at the time, Ken Jacob, openly acknowledged that his repeated filibusters on even minor issues were designed to slow down the entire legislative process to stall a Republican agenda. He sought gridlock.

It was an ugly period in Missouri. The Democratic governor was even heckled during an address to a joint session of the Republican-controlled legislature.

It was akin to and maybe worse than the gridlock we see now in the U.S. Senate.

But in Missouri, things began to change. I sensed that one of the reasons was that legislators simply did not like the atmosphere they had created. Even staff privately complained that it was an unpleasant place in which to work.

The Senate’s Democratic leader, Maida Coleman, who succeeded Jacob, deserves a lot of credit. She went out of her way to develop a working relationship with Republicans.

On the GOP side, a small group negotiated a compromise to end the Democratic filibusters and the corresponding Republican threats to stifle debate. Under the agreement, those Republicans agreed not to support motions to shut off debate if Democrats would agree to restrict their filibusters to major issues and would work to find areas of compromise.

Over in the House, Republican Speaker Steve Tilley handed over four committee chairs to Democrats, including a powerful appropriations committee. House Democrats were appreciative. At times, the House Democratic leaders were more critical of their Democratic governor than of the Republican House speakers.

And Jay Nixon has made a difference. Unlike the last Democratic governor, Bob Holden, Nixon has not pushed an ideological or partisan agenda. Some of his supporters say he recognizes that with a solid Republican majority in the legislature, there are limits to what he can get through the General Assembly.

Whether this cooperative approach continues with Republicans now enjoying an historic margin in the legislature will be one of the major questions for the 2013 legislative session.

There are some initial signs of change. The new House Speaker, Tim Jones, has fired a salvo across the governor’s bow warning that with veto-proof majorities, the governor had better begin working more closely with the legislature. Further, Jones would not commit to continuing his predecessor’s approach of sharing committee chairs with Democrats.

On the other hand, the Senate’s new Democratic leader, Jolie Justus, was effusive in praise for the Senate’s incoming president pro tem, Tom Dempsey. She went to great length to describe her friendship with him.

And Dempsey was a member of that small group of Republicans who worked out the agreement with Democrats that laid the foundation for partisan tranquility in Missouri’s Senate these last few years.

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[Phill Brooks has been a Missouri statehouse reporter since 1970, making him dean of the statehouse press corps. He is the statehouse correspondent for KMOX Radio, director of MDN and a faculty member of the Missouri School of Journalism. He has covered every governor since the late Warren Hearnes.
Past columns are available at http://www.mdn.org/mpacol.]

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