MPANewsBook: Statehouse News for MPA Members
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Headline: Missouri’s special session ambles to an apparent end [Entered: 10/20/2011]
After a week in which the Missouri legislature’s special session punted the economic development bill back and forth, the Senate’s top leader announced Friday [Oct. 21] that the session will be terminated by the Senate early next week.
“We are at an impasse, and the differences are irreconcilable in the short time remaining in the special session,” Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, wrote in a notice sent to statehouse reporters Friday.
In his statement, he announced that he will terminate the special session when the Senate returns for it’s next session.
On Monday [Oct. 17], the Senate had refused to request a conference committee with the House to negotiate the different versions passed by the two chambers. Instead, the Senate simply rejected the House version and asked the House to pass the Senate’s approach without changes.
The Senate adjourned later that night with legislative leaders saying they had no intention of bringing members back before Nov. 5 when the state Constitution imposes automatic adjournment of the special session.
On Thursday [Oct. 20], the House punted the China Hub bill back to the Senate, rejecting the Senate’s version and asking for a conference committee to negotiate their differences.
Both chambers have agree to remove the governor’s proposal for up to $300 million in tax breaks for developers to construct warehouses and other infrastructure facilities to attract a Chinese airline to St. Louis. Left in the bill were various other tax breaks for businesses, including an across-the-board cut in corporate income taxes passed by the House.
The major provision dividing the two chambers involves tax credits for special interests, developers and various social causes. The Senate version would impose sunsets, or termination dates, on tax credits requiring periodic legislative reauthorization.
Supporters say the state cannot afford the tax revenue losses that now exceed $500 million per year in tax credits, but House members argue that requiring legislative action every few years to preserve a tax credit program would let one senator kill a tax credit by a filibuster.
On the House floor Thursday [Oct. 20], Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said the Senate members are not following through on their legislative obligations as lawmakers.
Republican leadership in the House was supported by Democrats who said the Senate is being unwilling to negotiate.
“The only people who are unwilling to come to the table are the people in the Senate,” Kelly said. “Mr. Speaker, it is an abdication of their obligations under oath of office. It is not good, and we should not encourage it by backing down.”
In a short explanation to his Senate colleagues on Monday [Oct. 17], however, Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, described the differences between the two chambers as “irreconcilable,” making it a waste of time to pursue negotiations.
Headline: Presidential primary will stay in February despite Republican call for caucus [Entered: 10/17/2011]
By Stephanie Ebbs [Email: email@example.com, Cell: 618-525-4700 – Please remove contact info. if published]
The legislative inaction in the special session assures that Missourians will get to vote in a president primary early next year — although the results likely will not have any legal meaning.
The Senate dropped debate on a measure to terminate the 2012 primary after a compromise plan was defeated on a 16-16 tie vote.
The two major national political parties had warned the state that national convention delegates might not be seated if Missouri did move its early February presidential primary date to a later month.
Faced with inaction by the legislature, the state Republican Party voted to disregard the primary results and select delegates through the caucus process. Senate Majority Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, expressed frustration during the Senate debate on preserving a primary that would not have any effect.
“I do not want to waste $8 million at a very difficult time in the state’s history on a beauty contest,” said Dempsey, who favors the caucus plan.
Some Republican senators said a caucus enables the public to choose candidates without spending state money on an election, but others said a caucus alienates voters and does not encourage presidential candidates to visit or campaign in Missouri.
“There’s a reason there’s discontent with government: Elected officials are not listening to their constituents,” Sen. Brad Lager, R-Maryville, said in support of his amendment to move the primary to January.
The senators described Missouri’s population as a cross-section of the national population, ideal for a successful primary election. With almost six million residents in both urban and rural areas, the state is a better representation of national sentiment than smaller primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, said Sen. Timothy Green, D-St. Louis County. Green said campaign ads and visits for a primary electionbring in enough money to the state’s economy to make up for the cost to the state.
Under the caucus system, delegates are selected at Congressional district caucuses and at the state convention.
Filing for the Feb. 4 presidential primary opens Oct. 25.
Although the political parties can disregard the results of the primary in allocating national party convention delegates, the February primary will remain one of the country’s first primaries for selection of the presidential candidates.
* Get the text story. [http://www.mdn.org/2011/STORIES/PRIMARY2.HTM]
* Get the radio stories [http://www.mdn.org/2011/STORIES/PREPRI2.HTM].
* Get the roll call vote [ http://www.mdn.org/2011/FORMS/VOTEVIEW.HTM?ne_year=2011&ne_vote=890 ] .
Headline: Missouri House makes final attempt for compromise on tax credits [Entered: 10/20/2011]
By Mengti Xu [Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Cell: 573-289-8229] and Alex Goldman [Email: email@example.com, Cell: 847-650-7097 – Please remove contact info. if published]
The Missouri House of Representatives passed and sent the Senate a proposed constitutional amendment to create a new tax credit review process that supporters argue would guarantee legislative review of the tax breaks on a regular basis.
Under the proposal approved by the House on Thursday [Oct. 20], the legislature would be required to have a separate vote on retaining each of the state’s tax credits every four years.
The proposed constitutional amendment was offered as an alternative to a Senate demand that the China hub bill include provisions to terminate various tax credits unless reauthorized by the legislature. House members argue the Senate’s approach would give one member in the Senate the power to kill a tax credit by filibuster.
“We should not allow one senator to filibuster a renewal if a program comes to an end on a certain date and it needs to be authorized for renewal,” said Rep. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City. “We don’t believe that one senator should have the power to in effect kill a program that takes a majority of senators to create in the first place.”
The House proposal would appear to have little chance of making it to the statewide ballot for approval as a part of the constitution.
The Senate’s top leader announced Friday [Oct. 21] that the Senate will terminate the special session in the following week with no further action.
Under the constitution, the special session automatically will be adjourned on Nov. 5 unless the House or Senate were to adjourn earlier.
* Get the text story. [ http://www.mdn.org/2011/STORIES/ENDSESS.HTM ]
Headline: Nixon heads to China without China hub bill [Entered: 10/20/2011]
As Missouri’s legislature gridlocked over his China hub proposal, Gov. Jay Nixon was preparing for a week-long trade mission to China.
Nixon will spend from Oct. 21 to Oct. 29 in China along with a group of state business leaders to promote trade with Missouri and sign trade agreements. The governor’s office said costs of the trip would be covered by a private foundation.
State Rep. Jason Kander, D-Kansas City, is also joining the trip.
Although Kander said he doesn’t know why he was invited by the Governor’s office to the trip, his objective is to do everything he can to increase the sale of Missouri products — and he said the failure of the China hub bill won’t affect the trip.
“It’s just one of the extra tools in the toolbox,” Kander said. “With or without it, I think it’s a very worthwhile trip.”
Kander said the trip is a good opportunity to advertise Missouri products.
“There’s a wide range of products that we want to discuss with the Chinese that we think they should purchase from right here in the state,” Kander said.
He said increasing Missouri exports in China will add more job opportunities for the local workers.
Headline: Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder charges that Missouri’s Health Department puts elderly Missourians’ lives at risk [Entered: 10/18/2011]
By Stacey Kafka [Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 630-329-5886 – Please remove contact info. if published]
Missouri’s lieutenant governor charged that the state Department of Health and Human Services was putting Missourians at risk because of delays in assessing home-health care needs of elderly Medicaid patients.
At a series of news conferences across the state, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder called on the health department and Gov. Jay Nixon to act immediately on the case backlog of elderly patients waiting for a decision after the state cut ties with SynCare.
The issue arises from the state’s original decision to privatize the process for determining whether a Medicaid patient could be better served by in-home services rather than institutionalization in a nursing home.
Earlier this year, however, the health department canceled its contract with SynCare after numerous complaints that decisions were being delayed and phone calls to the firm not answered promptly.
The health department took over the evaluation process, but Kinder said the agency is not equipped to handle the job.
“Only 400 of 1,000 patients on the critical needs list have been assessed — that’s in 48 days. That means that there are 600 seniors in critical condition who have been waiting for months for assessment for care who have not even been looked at,” Kinder said at a Tuesday [Nov. 18] news conference in Jefferson City.
Kinder urged the department to return to the previous approach in which private medical providers did the evaluations.
Diane Noah, Executive Director for HomeCare of Mid-Missouri, urged the government to go back to the old way of assessments. She said she remains unsure of why health care providers are not being used to complete these assessments.
Noah also stressed that if the state turned to private health care companies to get help with these assessments, it would take about two weeks for them to catch up on the backlog of assessments.
It is unknown how many backlogged assessments still exist, but in September there were nearly 10,000 cases. The health department has said it has hired temporary workers in September to handle the backlogged assessment, which is costing taxpayers an additional $8 million this year.
Kinder, along with Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, and Rep. Tom Long, R-Springfield, stressed the importance of acting now instead of waiting for regular session in January.
Although they publicly called on the governor and the Department of Health and Senior Services to act on this crisis, Kinder said that they have not actually spoken to the department or the governor’s office aside from these public press conferences.
The governor’s office would not comment on the issue, instead directing questions to the spokesman for the health department. Health Department director Margaret Donnelly was not available for immediate comment.
Headline: Missouri House tries to make up with the state’s largest aircraft manufacturer [Entered: 10/20/2011]
By Jenner Smith [Email: JJSR4C@mail.missouri.edu, Cell: 913-220-5700 – Please remove contact info. if published]
The Missouri House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution urging continued funding of Boeing’s F-18 fighter jet program based in St. Louis.
House passage Thursday [Oct. 20] came one week after the House was criticized for passing a resolution supporting the fighter jet project of Lockheed Martin Corp., Boeing’s Texas-based competition.
House Majority Leader Tim Jones, R-St. Louis County, acknowledged he had just skimmed the earlier resolutions.
“It was about jets, it was about jobs, it was about the Missouri economy. So I think it’s unfair to criticize those of us that don’t have that inside baseball knowledge,” Jones said.
Boeing generates $1 billion for the state each year and employs 15,000 workers in the St. Louis area.
“I love military fighter jets; you know, the more the merrier,” Jones said.
* Get the radio story. [http://www.mdn.org/2011/STORIES/MOBOEING.HTM]
Headline: Missouri nationally ranked one of the worst states in energy efficiency [Entered: 10/20/2011]
By Stacey Kafka [Email: email@example.com, Cell: 630-329-5886 – Please remove contact info. if published]
In its annual ranking scorecard, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranked Missouri 44th in energy efficiency.
The council looks at six areas related to energy efficiency to put forth these rankings.
Maggie Molina, research manager for the council determining rankings, said Missouri does well when compared to other states in state government initiatives but lags behind top-ranked states in all other areas.
In a study completed earlier this year, the council found Missouri could save more than $6 billion and create around 8,500 local jobs if the state adopted new energy efficient policies.
Vice chairman of the Special Standing Committee on Renewable Energy, Rodney Schad, R-Versailles, said Missouri must do something to improve these rankings.
“That’s not good news. If it’s true and the ratings are correct, I think it’s time we get busy and try to come up with some energy efficiency ideas,” said Schad.
The committee did not meet during the special session because energy efficiency was not on Gov. Jay Nixon’s agenda.
Although Schad said he is unaware of specifics, the Special Standing Committee on Renewable Energy has two or three ideas for energy efficiency improvement and will work on those when regular session begins in January.
* Get the text story. [ http://www.mdn.org/2011/STORIES/MOENERGY.HTM ]
Headline: Fifth case of cantaloupe-related illness confirmed in Missouri [Entered: 10/20/2011]
By Rebecca May [Email: RJMN69@mail.missouri.edu, Cell: 314-369-2949 – Please remove contact info. if published]
The total number of confirmed cases of listeria, which most often causes fever and flu-like symptoms, has risen to five in Missouri.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention informed the Department of Health and Senior Services Thursday of the additional case.
According to the CDC, unsanitary conditions at Jensen Farms in Colorado caused the bacteria to contaminate the cantaloupes.
The five people who consumed the contaminated cantaloupe were hospitalized. One of the five has died, but according to local media the cause of death was not linked to listeriosis.
Nationwide, there have been 126 reported cases and 25 deaths. The FDA released an environmental assessment of reasons why the outbreak started in Jensen Farms. The assessment identified a couple of factors contributing to the outbreak, one of them being the facility design.
State and local health officials in Missouri continue to look for contaminated cantaloupe being sold.
The CDC has said to avoid cantaloupe with a green and white sticker that reads: Product of USA-Frontera Produce-Colorado Fresh-Rocky Ford-Cantaloupe, or a gray, yellow and green sticker that reads: Jensen Farms-Sweet Rocky Fords.
Headline: Young man driven to suicide after being deemed a sexual offender for life [Entered: 10/18/2011]
By Alex Goldman [Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Cell: 847-650-7097 – Please remove contact info. if published]
Almost half a dozen families told similar stories about how their lives were ruined due to the current sexual offender registration system during an Interim Committee of Criminal Justice hearing Tuesday [Oct. 18].
One woman, Pam Baumstark, spoke on behalf of her son Zach, who was arrested by federal agents on child pornography charges, which led to his eventual death.
When Zach was just 14 years old, he and some of his friends were interested in sex, Baumstark said, saying that as teenagers they chose to download sexual videos online of girls who were the same age as them. That website was monitored by an agency that had downloaded child pornography in hopes of attracting sexual predators. Four years later, Zach Baumstark faced the harsh realities of his mistakes.
“It wasn’t until two months after Zach turned 18 that the St. Charles County Police were at our door to confiscate his computer,” Baumstark said. “The police questioned Zach with no lawyer present.”
On July 1, 2010, Zach Baumstark was sentenced to 40 years of supervised release and a lifetime on the sexual offender registry. He quickly isolated himself in his room and suffered from severe anxiety, his mother said. Baumstark said her son constantly felt threatened with prison and the stress became too much to handle.
“On November 4, 2010, I lost my son,” Baumstark said. “The autopsy report deemed his death an accidental overdose. I and those who knew him well deemed it an accidental suicide.”
The Criminal Justice Committee is examining the state’s entire criminal sentencing laws. The investigation comes after repeated recommendations from the state Supreme Court’s chief justice that Missouri find cheaper alternatives than prison for first-offense, non-violent offenders.
* Get the full text story [http://www.mdn.org/2011/STORIES/OFFENDER.HTM].
Headline: After Mamtek’s downfall, another economic development project could be following in its footsteps [Entered: 10/18/2011]
By Mengti Xu [Email: email@example.com, Cell: 573-289-8229] and Jessi Turnure [Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Cell: 314-780-1078 – Please remove contact info. if published]
Gov. Jay Nixon’s administration awarded a $1 million state loan to Wi-Fi Sensors in 2009 to launch its manufacturing company in Missouri.
But the company missed its first payment on the loan in November 2010.
The company planned to produce transmitters that could be attached to remote devices and report conditions of those devices back to a central computer, and it promised 40 new jobs and more than $4 million in private investments.
The company has left the town of Kirksville without any jobs created and abandoned its facility with the space now leased to Hollister Incorporated, from whom the company bought the building in 2009.
In an email response to questions, Wi-Fi Sensors’ Chief Operating Officer David Fuhr wrote that he remains optimistic the plant eventually will begin operation.
The Kirksville community is disappointed about the outcome of the project.
Director of Job Creation Phil Tate says his department wants to see taxpayer dollars used wisely and that it’s a disappointment when they are not.
The $1 million loan came from a state grant program. Tate said this type of loan can be faulty because it’s a high-risk federal fund taken from Missouri housing and urban development.
Wi-Fi Sensors founder Peter Fuhr wrote in an email they are fully aware of their delinquency in the loan payment and are working with the Department of Economic Development to work out a solution.
Fuhr wrote in an email to Sen. Joseph Keaveny, D-St. Louis City, they have pumped close to $4 million into the company.
The Senate Governmental Accountability office has included the Wi-Fi Senors issue as part of its investigation into failed economic development projects reviewed by the state administration.
* Get the text story. [ http://www.mdn.org/2011/STORIES/SENSOR.HTM ]
* Get the text story. [ http://www.mdn.org/2011/STORIES/KVILLE.HTM ]
Headline: Hope turns to despair in Moberly [Entered: 10/18/2011]
When Moberly was trying to create 600 jobs through Mamtek, it didn’t expect that the hope it began with would leave the city with despair.
Former Mamtek CEO Bruce Cole promised to bring the project back to life through a new American Sucralose Manufacturing Inc.
Cole promised a payment of $250,000 but only paid $45,000.
Moberly Finance Director Greg Hodge said he has confirmed with the Bank of New York Wire Department that the rest of the payment of $205,000 was returned to Hong Kong because of a wrong routing number in the international transaction. Hodge said he was expecting to receive the money when China’s weeklong holiday was over.
However, Hodge’s hope soured the following week, when he said in an email that he “will be making no further comments about the situation.”
Moberly City Manager Andy Morris said he doesn’t have any insights at this time. He is simply waiting for the money.
As of late last week, Moberly still had not received the payment.
Mamtek solicited money from Chinese investors by promising foreign visas. The EB5 visa program provides long-term visas to foreigners who invest $500,000 in a U.S. development project.
China-based firm Well Trend reported to the Columbia Daily Tribune that four Chinese investors have already put up $2 million in the project.
The project’s failure also has led to a downgrade of the city’s credit rating, which means the city’s future borrowing costs are likely going up and the value of the bonds to investors has gone down.
Sen. Kurt Schaefer, D-Columbia, said the result is damaging the local economy.
Missouri Senate Governmental Accountability Committee is investigating the issue. The Department of Economic Development is required to provide all the documents on the issue.
Headline: Gov. Jay Nixon raises triple the amount of Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder’s campaign for 2012 election [Entered: 10/17/2011]
By Rebecca Woolf [Email: email@example.com, Cell: 317-828-5131 – Please remove contact info. if published]
As of the end of September, Gov. Jay Nixon’s campaign for governor in 2012 has raised more than $4 million while Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who is expected to announce his candidacy soon, has raised less than $2 million.
Craig Hosmer, Nixon’s campaign treasurer, said Nixon received more donations because his performance in office has gained the loyalty of the people.
“I think he’s been very effective,” Hosmer said. “I think he’s done a lot of things that are very popular with people, and I think he’s been a great governor.”
Rich Chrismer, Kinder’s campaign adviser, would not directly comment whether he thought reports of Kinder’s patronage at a St. Louis strip club affected donations.
Chrismer said Kinder is expected to declare his candidacy next month.
Headline: Capitol Perspectives: The Demise of the Special Session [Entered: 10/21/2011]
By Phill Brooks
When Missouri’s Senate essentially called it quits for the special session without passing most of the major issues before lawmakers, the Senate’s majority leader, Tom Dempsey, blamed part of the cause on legislative term limits.
“I think term limits had a lot to do with the state of how we’ve been operating with a number of senators retiring, and they’re not really having a real long-term perspective in working with other members. And we have House members that are looking to move up and move onward,” Dempsey said. “And I think all those things make it that much harder to pass substantive legislation.”
The St. Charles Republican has a good point.
This was quite a different special session than any I’ve seen in my more than four decades at the statehouse.
Legislative leaders did not seem to know how to work around their differences. Leaders from the past have talked to me about how they would meet outside the session to bridge their gaps and just develop friendships.
I didn’t sense that happening this time. There simply are not the personal relationships that had existed before term limits. The Senate’s current president pro tem, Rob Mayer, has talked at length about that with me.
But it’s not just term limits. The governor, Jay Nixon, played a very limited public role working with legislators. Except for one short meeting with Mayer, he was not seen in the legislative hallways during the special session.
As Columbia Daily Tribune reporter Rudi Keller observed at a news conference with Mayer, he had seen governors in past special sessions personally get involved to work out differences between the House and Senate.
In 1991, Gov. John Ashcroft spent hours from evening into early morning meeting with legislative leaders in their offices to forge a compromise on a tax increase for higher education.
Former Gov. Warren Hearnes always got involved personally with legislators, and former Gov. Mel Carnahan brokered differences between the two chambers. Those two previously had been legislative leaders, so they had insight about what legislative leaders could and could not deliver.
That was a major part of the difficulties with this year’s special session: Legislative leaders had signed on to an agreement that they could not get their members to deliver.
In the Senate, members objected to the $300 million in tax breaks for China hub warehouse developers without any guarantee of jobs or that a foreign air cargo company actually would come to St. Louis.
In the state House of Representatives, by an overwhelming vote, members rejected termination dates on developer tax credits that had been part of the original deal to win the Senate’s support.
There were, of course, a number of other factors that contributed to the special session’s inaction. Mayer complained about developers and other special interests that mounted pressure on the House to oppose developer tax credit cuts.
There was a divide among the majority party in the Senate that dominated the chamber in ways I had not seen since Democrats fractured over the income tax increase pushed by Hearnes. That ultimately led to the ouster of Earl Blackwell as the Senate’s top leader.
Remember, less than a year ago, Republicans evenly split on their candidate for president pro tem. It took a random drawing to make a selection.
Leaders in both chambers also point to the failure of the Chinese firm Mamtek, which has left the city of Moberly potentially responsible for some $30 million in bond payments. That story broke just as the special session was starting and had a clear chilling effect on enthusiasm for another deal with a Chinese firm promoted by the same Department of Economic Development that had touted Mamtek.
Fiscal hawks in the Senate point to an emerging sentiment in their chamber that with an impending budget crisis facing the state, Missouri needs to be more careful about giving away tax revenue in the name of economic development.
Finally, I’m reminded of a lesson I was taught by legislators when I was a “cub” statehouse reporter — that success is not always measured by bill passage, that sometimes defeat of a measure is a success. To those who reject the idea of giving tax breaks to selected companies in hopes of producing jobs, this session could be considered a success.
As always, let me know (at firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any comments. If you would like your comments, or a portion of them, included in a future column, let me know, and be sure to include your full name in your email.
[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 (Missouri Digital News) 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.