Capitol Report, Oct. 28, 2011

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Headline:  A note from Phill [Entered: 10/28/2011]

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Headline:  Missouri Senate, House adjourn without passing China hub bill [Entered: 10/25/2011]

By Stephanie Ebbs [Email:, Cell: 618-525-4700 – Please remove contact info. if published]

The Missouri legislature’s special session finally came to an end on Thursday [Oct. 27] after 52 days.

Legislative staff put the cost at nearly $280,000 for expenses that included mileage, the daily per diem for attendance and extra staff.

The General Assembly passed only two of the many provisions requested by the governor and gridlocked on the major item for which the session was called — tax breaks for development of a China air cargo transport hub in St. Louis, along with cuts in other tax credit programs.

It is only the third time in at least half a century that lawmakers did not pass the major issue for which a Missouri governor called a special session.

The final session of the Senate was held Tuesday [Oct. 25]. Only two senators were in session Tuesday: Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, and Senate Majority Floor Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles. The entire session lasted less than a minute.

“The crux of the problem or the issue is sunsets and seven-year sunsets,” Mayer said after adjourning the Senate. The Senate had approved the governor’s proposal for imposing termination dates on tax credits, the House refused, and neither side was willing to back down.

On Thursday [Oct 27], the House held its final session with adjournment the only action taken. A handful of House members attended.

The only two bills that cleared the special session were the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act to provide tax breaks to high-tech Missouri companies and the “Facebook-fix,” which modified the law about student-teacher online communications. Nixon has signed both bills into law.

– Get the text story and info box on what passed and what failed in the special session [ ] .

– Get the info box on tax credits [ ] .

Headline:  Scientists from the Centers for Disease Control traveling to St. Louis to deal with E. coli outbreak [Entered: 10/27/2011]

By Ashley Massow [Email:, Cell: 847-858-1906] and Matt Evans [Email:, Cell: 660-525-1313] – Please remove contact info. if published]

The Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is sending scientists to St. Louis to deal with an E. coli outbreak in the area.

The announcement came after the St. Louis County health department reported an increasing number of E. coli cases in the St. Louis area. By the end of the day Thursday [Oct. 27], nearly two dozen cases had been reported. Local health officials described the strain as E. coli 0157.

“There are more than 700 strains of E. coli, and this is one of the top three most serious strains,” St. Louis County health department spokesman John Shelton said.

Medical staff and top officials at the Department of Health and Senior Services refused to take reporter questions.

“We are continuing our investigation and waiting for test results and lab results and conducting interviews with perspective victims and patients,” Shelton said.

Health officials said they had not determined the source of the infection although Shelton said one likely source is meat and some produce in supermarkets. One supermarket chain, Schnucks, said it was voluntarily replacing some produce on its shelves as a precaution.

Symptoms of this E. coli include severe dehydration, diarrhea and kidney damage. Health officials said anyone experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms, including sever stomach cramps, diarrhea or nausea, should seek medical attention.

According to the national Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 70,000 people in the U.S. become ill each year from E. coli 0157-H7.

Headline:  Missouri governor signs intent to export $4.4 billion of goods to China [Entered: 10/24/2011]

By Stephanie Ebbs [Email:, Cell: 618-525-4700 – Please remove contact info. if published]

Missouri’s governor spent a week in China with a series of announcements of trade agreements to expand export of Missouri products to China.

The largest, announced Monday [Oct. 24], totaled $4.4 billion. A release from the governor’s office announced Gov. Jay Nixon had “closed a $4.4 billion export agreement to sell more Missouri goods to China over the next three years.”

The actual document signed by the governor, however, is not that strong. It merely commits organizations in the two countries to working together to determine what specific trade and investment activities will take place.

The document outlines several obligations, including exchanging information and facilitating “business matchmaking services” and to “generally advance the promotion of trade and investment between the state of Missouri and the People’s Republic of China.”

Nixon announced a couple other, smaller trade agreements later in the week.

In a conference call with reporters Monday [Oct. 24], Nixon acknowledged concerns voiced by the Chinese regarding the legislature’s failure to agree on the St. Louis trade hub for a Chinese air cargo service in St. Louis.

“The topic [of the China hub] came up a couple of times but not as a centerpiece of any of the agreements we were involved with,” Nixon said.

The China hub bill, which Nixon included in his call for the special session, created business tax breaks to encourage an international trade hub at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. The bill had been touted by Nixon as a move that would greatly encourage expanded trade with China.

Shortly before the governor’s departure, a Chinese airline had canceled one of its weekly cargo flights from St. Louis, saying it did not have enough cargo.

– Get the text story. []

– Get the radio story. []

Headline: Second legislative investigation is launched into failed Chinese investment [Entered: 10/27/2011]

By Mengti Xu [Email:, Cell: 573-289-8229 – Please remove contact info. if published]

Missouri’s House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, announced on Thursday [Oct. 27] the creation of an interim committee to investigate the failed Mamtek investment in Moberly that had been promoted by the state Department of Economic Development.

The facility being built by the Chinese company has been abandoned, and the company failed to meet its first round of bond issue payment obligations, leaving the town of Moberly potentially owing nearly $40 million to bondholders.

The House Interim Committee on Government Oversight and Accountability is to conduct an independent investigation into Mamtek’s default while a Senate committee has been looking into the same situation since Oct. 6.

The chairman of the House committee, Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, said members will explore from the minute Mamtek made contact with someone in the state government until now.

“We want to know everything that happened in between and to figure out if something went wrong, if there was something that could have been avoided, and if so, figure out how we avoid that happening ever again,” Barnes said.

The committee will ask for documents from the Department of Economic Development related to Mamtek and its contact with the state of Missouri. He said the committee would seek subpoenas if it does not get the documents.

The chair of a Senate committee’s investigation, Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, said his committee is still waiting to receive documents it has requested. Lembke said the committee might receive the documents next week.

Barnes said the House committee might schedule a hearing in mid-November.

– Get the radio story. [ ]

Headline:  The Missouri Guard aids troops with reintegration upon release of active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan [Entered: 10/27/2011]

By Jessi Turnure [Email:, Cell: 314-780-1078) and Elizabeth Hagedorn [Email:, Cell: 314-913-0639) – Please remove contact info. if published]

The Missouri National Guard has worked aggressively since 9/11 to improve its suicide prevention and employment programs for its 11,000 deployed troops.

Twenty-nine Missouri National Guard members have committed suicide out of the 11,000 deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11. To improve suicide prevention, the Missouri Guard is focusing on the education of the troops’ families and friends on the signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Missouri National Guard Lt. John Quin said the Missouri Guard also has a suicide prevention office and marital and other relationship programs.

A recent study shows 11.7 percent of 9/11 veterans are unemployed and the Missouri National Guard is adjusting programs to help them. To better employment rates, the Missouri National Guard offers two programs to ease the transition from deployment to civilian life. One program created by Gov. Jay Nixon in 2010 helps veterans find jobs; the other program help troops write resumes and train for interviews.

Currently, the Missouri National Guard doesn’t have any soldiers stationed in Iraq, from which President Barack Obama announced in October he plans to withdraw all troops. However, the state’s guard was set to deploy a Black Hawk helicopter unit there in December. The unit, Company C 1st Battalion 106th Aviation Regiment, will still be deployed, but public affairs officer for the Missouri National Guard, Maj. Tammy Spicer, said her office doesn’t know yet where the unit will go.

According to Spicer, the Missouri National Guard currently has almost 1,000 soldiers and airmen stationed in Afghanistan, Egypt and Qatar.

– Get the radio story about reintegrating guardsmen. [ ]

– Get the radio story about withdrawing troops in Iraq. [ ] Get the radio story.

Headline:  St. Louis-based coal company expands its operation overseas as China hub plan dies [Entered: 10/25/2011]

By Mengti Xu [Email:, Cell: 573-289-8229 – Please remove contact info. if published]

At the same time the Missouri legislators killed the plan to encourage trade with China from Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, a St. Louis-based coal company announced a plan to expand trade with China and other countries.

The world’s largest private-sector coal producer, Peabody Energy Corp., will become the only acquirer of Australia’s major coal supplier, Macarthur Coal.

The acquisition deal came after steelmaker ArcelorMittal pulled out of its partnership with Peabody to buy the Australian mining company.

Although Peabody’s executives were not available for interviews, its chief executive officer, Gregory Boyce, said in an announcement that the acquisition will give the company access to the highest growth coal markets to serve increasing demand for coal in the Asia-Pacific region.

Boyce also said in the announcement the investment continues the company’s global market focus and increases profits made from international assets.

The company said it would increase the offer to 16.25 Australian dollars per share if it could secure 90 percent of Macarthur’s stock by Nov. 11, though it is possible the deadline could be extended. The investment is only a midway point in the company’s plan.

According to the announcement, the company has built a relationship with a coal company in Mongolia to market coal in China and the Asia-Pacific region. The company also plans to develop a mine in the Xinjiang Province in China.

Headline:  Capitol Perspectives: The Nature of Legislative Failure [Entered: 10/28/2011]

By Phill Brooks

There has been a prevailing sentiment expressed in the aftermath of the legislature’s special session that it was a failure because it failed to pass the governor’s package of tax cuts for business expansion.

One legislative leader attributed the “failure” partially to term limits. Reporters have questioned whether the “failure” was a consequence of unlimited campaign contributions.

Passage of bills, regardless of content, regularly is seen as a measure of legislative success by lawmakers themselves. At the end of every session, legislative staff circulate the numerical count of bills they were able to pass.

That is, however, a very different perspective from what I used to hear from some conservative lawmakers back when I was a beginning statehouse reporter. They felt that the fewer bills passed during a legislative session the better.

Many bills, they argued, expand or create new programs that will cost taxpayer money and grow the size of state government. From a conservative standpoint, it might be viewed as a success to see those bills fail. Besides that, a major portion of bills before the legislature are pushed by special interests that might not reflect the interests of the general public.

The governor’s business tax-break package could be placed in the context that failure to pass is not necessarily a legislative failure.

For example, by an overwhelming margin, the House rejected termination dates for two of the state’s biggest tax credit programs for developers. House members argued passionately that tax credits for low-income housing development and restoration of historic buildings are major tools for community development.

For these lawmakers, rejection of the governor’s proposal to impose sunsets on those tax credit programs was a major success.

The heart of the bill was $300 million in tax breaks for developers of warehouses and other facilities to attract a Chinese airline to establish a cargo transportation hub in St. Louis. Those tax breaks for development of the infrastructure were declared by the St. Louis mayor as essential for attracting a Chinese airline.

But both Missouri’s House and Senate took that provision out of the bill. There was strong opposition to giving tax breaks to businesses without guarantees that new jobs would be created.

Despite these votes to remove key parts of the governor’s plan, the perception of legislative failure persists because the bill itself died from legislative inaction rather than an actual vote of rejection.

But that’s the normal course for killing most bills. In the Missouri General Assembly, few bills actually are defeated. Instead, most of the bills introduced in a legislative session die from inaction by getting bottled up in committee or just running out of time.

There are a lot of pressures in the legislature to avoid voting against a bill. It’ll upset the special interests supporting the bill, including those from whom legislators might expect campaign contributions in the future. Rejecting a bill might upset the bill’s sponsor. Voting to reject a colleague’s bill might make that lawmaker less eager to support another bill in return.

An anti-drug bill pushed by former Gov. John Ashcroft is a perfect example. His proposal would have stripped all state-issued licenses from a person convicted of illegal drug use – sporting licenses, driving licenses and professional licenses.

Ashcroft’s idea had strong opposition from legislators who, privately, expressed concern it would make it much more difficult for a drug offender to get a job after leaving prison if he or she could not get a professional license in a field such as cosmetology or barbering.

But they did not want to take a public vote. Some Republicans wanted to avoid taking a public stand against a key issue of their governor. Other lawmakers feared casting a vote against the bill would allow political opponents to portray them in the future as being soft on crime.

So, for three years in a row, Ashcroft’s drug bill enjoyed nothing but positive votes in the legislature — only for the bill to die in conference as House and Senate negotiators were unable to work out an agreement that could clear both chambers.

I do not know if Ashcroft ever realized that it was all staged. At times, he even would praise legislators for getting ever-so-close to passing his bill.

I am not suggesting a similar ploy was being used with the China hub. I sensed no secret conspiracy at the start of the session to kill the bill.

But in Missouri’s Senate, there is a group of fiscal conservatives who saw the difficulties the China hub bill encountered as a success for a broader policy they are pursuing.

They argue against the approach of picking winners and losers for business tax breaks. They argue that economic development efforts should be across the board, available for almost any Missouri business that can demonstrate that the tax break actually led to creation of a new job with a decent wage and benefits.

From their perspective, this special session and the inaction on the China hub bill might be seen as at least a partial success.

As always, let me know (at 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 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

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