Mon May 9, 2011
Lawmakers Face Long To-Do List
By Marshall Griffin
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The last week of the 2011 Missouri legislative session has arrived. Some major issues have already been resolved. Lawmakers have passed the state budget, forced changes to dog breeding regulations in Proposition B and overridden the governor's veto of the state's congressional redistricting map. But there are still plenty of issues waiting for action.
The biggest battle left to fight appears to be over a wide-ranging economic development bill that includes the so-called Aerotropolis proposal. The House passed it as a stand-alone bill, which would authorize up to 480 million in tax breaks to transform Lambert Airport in St. Louis into an international air cargo hub.
The Senate version shrunk the Aerotropolis bill down to 360 million in incentives, and rolled it into a larger tax credit overhaul measure that would reduce numerous incentives and eliminate others. House Speaker Steven Tilley isn't a fan of the Senate version.
"When we send them a 9-page bill and we get back a 400-page bill, I think we need to look through it before we make any drastic steps," said Tilley.
But there's a group of Senators who continue to push to have all tax credits subject to appropriations, including any new ones under Aerotropolis. Tilley would like to see it pass, but also says if it doesn't, it's not worth calling lawmakers back to Jefferson City for a special session.
"I'd like to see the pro-life bill that our majority leader's the sponsor of I'd like to see drug testing for TANF recipients, I believe that we've got a version of it already over here in the House," said Tilley.
TANF stands for "Temporary Assistance to Needy Families," and is a state-run program. Supporters say failing a drug test would only cost recipients 58 dollars a month, and would not affect their eligibility for federal welfare programs.
Opponents say depriving the poor of even that much money could be financially crippling. In the Senate, the first measure on their to-do list this week is the resolution requiring voters to show photo ID's at the polls. Tom Dempsey of St. Charles is the Senate's Majority Floor Leader.
"My understanding (is) that the amendments the House added that the sponsor is comfortable with them and believes that the support is there in the Senate, and he believes we're ready to go on that legislation, so I'm expecting passage," said Dempsey.
The main amendment would authorize an early voting period in Missouri. If lawmakers pass it, the resolution would go before voters next year.
The Senate is also scheduled to take up the St. Louis Police local control bill, which has already passed the House. Democrat Maria Chappelle-Nadal of St. Louis County has been blocking it. But she's encouraged by progress in negotiations between Mayor Francis Slay and the city's police officers.
"It's closer than it's ever been it is unfortunate that we have had to go this long in order to have a first and second draft language that I could even accept," said Chapelle-Nadal.
And there appears to be a last-ditch effort to salvage the site permit proposal for a second nuclear reactor at Ameren Missouri's Callaway County plant. House Majority Leader Tim Jones says the measure has been amended onto a Senate energy bill.
"I think it's been very clear from the beginning, although we haven't had a vote (yet), that the House was largely supportive of the site permit issue," said Jones, "However, the sponsor of the bill knows that that issue is extremely toxic, to put it lightly, in the Senate."
The nuclear plant language would likely be stripped from the energy bill if it endangers its passage.
Time is also running out on bills that would limit worker's compensation lawsuits, mandate English-only driver's license exams, and extend the texting-while-driving ban to motorists over the age of 21.
The 2011 session ends Friday at 6 p.m.