Capitol Reports, March 23, 2012

In Legislative News, Missouri Press News On
- Updated

Headline:  House approves a $24 billion budget for Missouri [Entered: 03/22/2012]

By Jordan Shapiro

The Missouri House of Representatives finished work Thursday, March 22, on the state’s $24 billion operating budget with increases for education and cuts to health care for the blind.

House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, said the House should be proud of the budget it passed.

“We have produced another balanced budget for the state of Missouri,” Silvey said.

Missouri started the budget process with a $500 million shortfall from last year because federal stimulus funds expired and the federal government decreased its reimbursement rate for Medicaid costs.

The cuts caused by the budget shortfall left some Democrats calling for more revenue during the budget debate. Rep. Sara Lampe, D-Springfield, said the reluctance to raise taxes caused the budget to reflect a choice between higher education and social service programs.

“We are making false choices because we have not addressed the revenue stream,” Lampe said.

Silvey said the House did the best it could with a certain amount of money.

“A lot of people in this chamber wish we had more money, but the fact of the matter is that we don’t,” Silvey said. “… We have to deal with the now.”

The final House budget debate on Thursday, March 22, centered on education.

“I think we should continue to fund education even though we are underfunding it,” said Rep. Karla May, D-St. Louis. “We need to find a way to fund it, and if that way is increasing revenue, then, yes.”

Republican Floor Leader Tim Jones, R-St. Louis County, said the funds won’t make a difference.

“Spending more money and education results have no correlation,” Jones said.

On a straight party-line vote, the House rejected a proposal for the state to accept $50 million in federal funds to update the state’s computer system for handling Medicaid applications. The money is part of a federal program to update state health systems in preparation for implementation of parts of the federal health care law that’s now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lawmakers attacked the administration last year for attempting to use the money without legislative authorization.

The budget must be sent to the governor’s desk by May 11.

* Get the full text story. [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/HBUD.HTM]

* Get the budget tables. [http://www.mdn.org/2012/DATA/BUD13.HTM]

* Get the Medicaid roll call [ http://www.mdn.org/2012/FORMS/VOTEVIEW.HTM?ne_year 12&ne_vote˜8 ]

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Headline:  House committee passes bill eliminating sales tax exemption for newspapers [Entered: 03/21/2012]

By Matthew Patane

A House of Representatives committee approved a bill Wednesday, March 21, that would eliminate the sales tax exemption for newspapers. Revenue from collection of the taxes would be used to fund health care programs for the blind.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, is part of the state’s ongoing budget process. Silvey, the House budget chairman, put forth the proposal as a means to counteract budget cuts to programs for the blind. Silvey put those cuts in his budget as a way to counteract Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s proposed cuts to higher education.

Silvey said his proposal was not retaliation against Missouri newspapers, many of which have published editorials about how the state could fix its budget shortfall, but rather a response.

“It has occurred to me that if we were (to do away with corporate welfare) … why wouldn’t we start with the corporate welfare and corporate giveaway that goes to the people who are suggesting we get rid of them,” Silvey said. “If they think we should raise taxes and get rid of corporate welfare, they should be the first in line.”

Missouri Press Association Director Doug Crews said there is a historic background on why newspapers, along with other manufacturers, have tax exemptions.

“I don’t consider this corporate welfare, I consider this as we are a manufacturer, just like any other manufacturer in Missouri,” Crews said.

The Missouri House of Representatives finished work Thursday, March 22, on the state’s $24 billion operating budget with increases for education and cuts to health care for the blind.

* Get the full text story. [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/PAPERTX.HTM]

* Get the radio story. [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/PAPERS.HTM]

* Get our coverage of the House’s first-round approval. [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/HBUD.HTM]

* Get the bill, HB 1835. [http://www.mdn.org/cgi-bin/bills/billhttp.exe?FORM=HB&NUM35.]

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Headline:  Missouri Senator vows to block any bill that would generate one-time budget funds [Entered: 03/21/2012]

By Matt Evans

Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, said Wednesday, March 21, that he would block anything that would generate one-time money for the state’s budget.

He said lawmakers were simply “patching” the budget and leaving the problems for future generations.

“I have had it with us not doing the right thing by setting up and addressing how we structurally fit these things,” Crowell said during a filibuster Wednesday, March 21, on a bill that would have eased the state’s restrictions for using a reserve fund to help balance the budget.

Crowell also said there needs to be major changes to several state systems, including tax credits.

* Get the radio story. [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/SENBLOCK.HTM]

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Headline:  Toilet paper dumped in Capitol to protest inducting Rush Limbaugh to Hall of Famous Missourians [Entered: 03/19/2012]

By Matthew Patane

Members of the state chapter of the National Organization for Women delivered 504 rolls to the speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives’ office as a part of their “Flush Rush” campaign. The campaign was designed to protest the speaker’s decision to place a bust of radio personality Rush Limbaugh in the Hall.

Earlier this month, the speaker, Rep. Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, said he would induct Limbaugh into the Hall of Famous Missourians despite recent controversial comments Limbaugh made about law student Sandra Fluke. Limbaugh called Fluke a “slut” on his nationally broadcast show after she spoke in support of the president’s birth control mandate.

“Rush Limbaugh is a misogynist and a bigot and a bully, and we don’t need a role model like that in Missouri,” said Claire Major, the vice president of the Missouri NOW chapter.

Tilley said he would donate however many rolls were sent to his office and that he hoped people would continue to exercise their right to protest so that his office could continue to donate goods.

* Get the full text story with a photo of the toilet paper delivery. [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/RUSHTP.HTM]

* Get the radio story. [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/FLUSH.HTM]

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Headline:  Missouri House passes bill requiring business owners to allow firearms on their property [Entered: 03/22/2012]

By Danielle Carter

After a lengthy debate, the Missouri House of Representatives passed a bill that would establish a legal right for a person to drive onto business property with a firearm.

The bill would prohibit businesses from not allowing firearms in motor vehicles on their property. If passed, business owners would only be allowed to regulate firearms in their own company vehicles.

The measure also would restrict liability lawsuits against a business for a criminal action committed on the business property against customers by another outsider.

Rep. Steve Webber, D-Columbia, made a business-rights argument against the bill.

“We are taking property rights away from the property owner and we are telling a business that the government is forcing them, forcing them to do something with their business and their property,” Webber said.

Supporters have argued that firearms owners have a Second Amendment right to have weapons.

“Effectively, if you can’t take a firearm and leave it in the vehicle, then you can’t take it with you,” said Rep. Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia.

* Get the roll call vote [ http://www.mdn.org/2012/FORMS/VOTEVIEW.HTM?ne_year 12&ne_vote˜7 ]

* Get the bill, HB 1326. [http://www.mdn.org/cgi-bin/bills/billhttp.exe?FORM=HB&NUM26]

* Get the radio story. [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/BUSINESS.HTM]

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Headline:  Senate’s only licensed physician continues to block prescription drug monitoring program, hospital inspection restriction [Entered: 03/20/2012]

By Andrew Weil

The Missouri Senate’s only licensed physician, Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, continued on Tuesday, March 20, to delay a vote on a plan to create a statewide database to monitor prescription drug use.

Schaaf said the plan infringes on the liberties of Missourians. He also said it would create roadblocks that would be in the way of patients getting the true medication they really need.

Sen. Luann Ridgeway, R-Smithville, also spoke against the legislation. She said the plan assumes everyone is a crook who is going to abuse the prescription pad.

“We’re making government for 100 percent of the people to address the 10 percent or the 8 percent or the 2 percent of the people who are the problem,” Ridgeway said.

Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, is the bill’s sponsor. He said the state already keeps track of prescriptions bought using insurance or through Medicaid.

“The only one is ones that pay cash, the ones that are selling them primarily in the secondary market, do we not keep track,” Engler said.

Earlier this year, a similar bill passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives by a vote of 143-6.

Schaaf filibustered another medical bill on Thursday, March 22, that would loosen licensure and inspection provisions in Missouri hospitals.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, would restrict hospital inspections to the state Health Department.

“It’s designed to help save some health care costs and do it more efficiently,” Brown said.

Schaaf blocked the legislation, saying that altering the number of hospital regulatory bodies makes them less safe for patients.

“This eliminates what they call ‘duplicative’ inspections,” Schaaf said. “Well, what’s duplicative about it? If there are two inspections, how do you know they are looking at the same exact things?”

* Get the radio story about prescription drug monitoring. [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/SCRIPS.HTM]

* Get the text story about hospital inspections. [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/MOHOSP.HTM]

* Get the radio story about the hospital inspections. [ http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/HOSPITAL.HTM ]

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Headline:  Missouri Capitol security concerns at center of Senate debate [Entered: 03/20/2012]

By Sherman Fabes

A bill to increase security at the Missouri Capitol was debated in the Senate on Tuesday, March 20.

The bill sponsor Sen. Robin Wright-Jones, D-St. Louis City, said the measure was created in direct response to cross-hair stickers appearing on some senator’s doors this January.

The bill would establish security cameras to monitor all public spaces inside the Capitol. It would also authorize the Office of Administration to allow armed security guards separate from the Capitol Police to patrol the Capitol and other state-owned facilities.

Wright-Jones called upon all of the senators targeted by the cross-hair stickers during the bill’s discussion, including Democratic Sens. Kiki Curls, Maria Chapelle-Nadal and Victor Callahan.

In addition, Wright-Jones cited the U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords shooting in Arizona as a reason for heightened security.

“We have a Capitol that is open to the public, and I think that is a wonderful thing, it belongs to the people,” Wright-Jones said. “But I also think the state needs to be prudent in how it takes care of its visitors.”

Sen. Tim Green, D-St. Louis County, voiced opposition to the bill’s language regarding licensing outside security firms.

“Why do we want to have a private security firm when we already have Capitol police?” Green said. Opposition from Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, stalled a Senate vote.

* Get the radio story. [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/CAPTSEC.HTM]

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Headline:  Tuberculosis-targeted testing program to be implemented in Missouri [Entered: 03/21/2012]

By Josie Butler

State health officials would have stronger powers over persons infected with tuberculosis under a measure before Missouri’s legislature.

The targeted testing program is a screening process that would identify individuals who have a much higher risk of spreading tuberculosis.

The bill would grant local public health authorities or departments the power to require individuals they suspect are infected with TB to get treatment. The bill deems any individual knowingly infected with TB who acts in a reckless manner or violates the requirements of treatment guilty of a class C felony.

The direct observed therapy would require a member of the health care team to watch the patient take the medication. Bill sponsor Rep. Keith Frederick, R-Rolla, said this alternative is cheaper to the state than inpatient care. Frederick said he plans to create an amendment that would only require direct observed therapy for noncompliant patients.

The bill would require all faculty and students of universities to participate in the targeted testing program and to identify high risk populations.

* Get the full text story. [http://www.mdn.org/2012/STORIES/TUBERC.HTM]

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Headline:  Capitol Perspectives: Capitol Security [Entered: 03/23/2012]

By Phill Brooks

This past week, Missouri’s Senate had an extended debate about security at the state Capitol.

At issue is a bill that would require the administration to install more surveillance cameras in the statehouse.

The sponsor is one of the legislators who had a small cross-hair sticker attached to her office door earlier this legislative session. About a half dozen legislators, most Democratic women, had targets stuck on their doors.

No motivation has been determined nor any suspects identified.

Although seemingly harmless, it has caused concern among some legislators about safety in the Capitol.

Missouri’s Capitol is remarkably open. Although Capitol police patrol the building and some areas are under video surveillance, there are no metal detectors. You do not need any kind of pass or identification to enter the building. And once in, there is unrestricted access to the legislature’s visitors galleries overlooking the House and Senate chambers.

My foreign guests often express surprise at how open our government buildings are compared to those in their own countries.

This latest Senate debate about statehouse security reminded me of a conversation I had with former Gov. Mel Carnahan shortly after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

Carnahan faced enormous pressure to implement severe security measures to prevent a similar attack against Missouri’s statehouse.

Carnahan clearly was frustrated at the pressure that he thought would interfere with public access to the center of government for Missouri citizens. He spoke eloquently about how the openness of the statehouse reflected something special about the nature of our government.

But he also acknowledged that any public official who did not take every conceivable precaution recommended by public safety ran the risk of being blamed for some future tragedy — no matter how unavoidable.

Carnahan struck a balance with his response to Oklahoma City.

The Capitol’s historic carriage entrance that allowed cars to be driven right up to the front door was closed off. A high-security, attack-proof guard shack was built next to the Capitol’s garage entrance with barriers that are lowered only for authorized vehicles.

But there were no restrictions to pedestrian entrance into the building. There were no metal detectors. That would come later, after 9/11.

But those metal detectors did not last long.

With hundreds and sometimes thousands of schoolchildren visiting the statehouse on some days, restricting access to a few doors with metal detectors created a logjam.

There actually was a health threat created by these special security steps. To staff the metal detectors, the state hired private security. They were old, retired guys. And some smoked like chimneys as they loitered just outside the building — so children and other visitors had to walk through a cloud of noxious tobacco smoke to get into the statehouse.

Eventually, the metal detectors and private security guards were abandoned, returning access to the levels before 9/11.

I would be remiss if I left the impression that arguments against heightened Capitol security have been limited to philosophical issues involving government openness.

That definitely was not the case with the first surveillance camera I remember being installed in the Capitol.

It recorded persons entering and leaving the Capitol’s basement garage during the evening hours.

Legislators, I was told by confidential sources, demanded that it be removed because they did not want the administration to have a record of possible opposite-sex companions accompanying lawmakers who were leaving the statehouse in the late evening hours.

As always, let me know (at column@mdn.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.

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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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