Top Stories Of The Week
Kansas lawmakers couldn't end their session because they can't agree on a budget ant taxes. And Missouri legislators ended theirs without a plan for fixing roads and bridges. KCUR's Steve Bell looks back at those and other top stories on this week's Saturday News Review.
MO Lawmakers End Session, Still Roads Or Tax Credits Bills
The Missouri Legislature ended its 2013 session Friday as mandated by state law. And on the final day two of the big issues of recent years were scrapped again.
Final Senate Sponsor of a one-cent sales tax for roads and bridges Mike Kehoe lamented that the session would end at 6 pm, but the problem of deteriorating roads and bridges will not. As he withdrew his final amended version, Keyhoe reminded Senate colleagues that Missouri has 32,000 miles of roads and 10,400 bridges and no plan to provide money for upkeep. Missouri ranks 47th in the nation for road funding, he said.
Another last day casualty was a plan to rework Missouri's tax incentive programs. The bill would have placed caps on several.
The Assembly did, though, send the governor a bill consolidating the state's incentives for job creation, making the standards more flexible and giving the Department of Economic Development more discretion in applying them.
Long Time Injury Fund Insolvency Addressed
Another Missouri issue that has dragged on for years was resolved – with the passage of a bill shoring up the state's second injury fund Senator Scott Rupp commented that the time finally came when negotiators had to agree on a solution none of them was completely happy with.
The solution they agreed on, and which now goes to the governor, involves a temporary increase in the surcharge business pay into the fund and placing most occupational disease claims in the workers' comp system.
“Paycheck Protection” Union Limits Bill To Nixon
A bill that would require annual individual written permission for automatic payroll deduction of union dues and for unions to spend any portion of dues for political causes went to Governor Nixon's desk.
Sponsors say it protects union members from being pressured into supporting causes they are uncomfortable with. Opponents say it is all about making it hard for unions to collect dues and engage in the political process. Nixon, A Democrat, was expected to veto it.
A bill scaling back Missouri's prevailing wage had already beached in the Senate. Nixon was also expected to veto it, but GOP Senator Mike Parson said supporters will “live to fight another day.
Nixon Signs Bills Affecting NKC Hospital Sale, State Takeover of Schools
Nixon promptly signed a bill requiring approval of the city council, hospital board and voters before North Kansas City Hospital could be sold. The legislation effectively ends a lawsuit and standoff between the hospital board and the city over which had the authority to sell the facility.
Nixon also signed a measure allowing a quicker state takeover of school districts that lose their accreditation. The Kansas City school district is in that situation at this time. The new law will remove the two-year waiting period that existed in the past. It also mandates a state takeover if a district remains unaccredited for three years.
Kansas Budget Negotiation End Abruptly, Extending Session
The Kansas Legislature extended this year's session into next week after House-Senate negotiations on tax and budget issues broke down Friday. Republican Representative Richard Carlson said the house made an offer to lower income taxes more slowly and raise sales taxes less.
But Senate negotiators would not accept the proposal and asked for a “final offer.” Governor Brownback let it be known he'd veto any plan that didn't include his (higher) sales tax plan.
Meanwhile, attempts at negotiating a budget also stalled over whether and how much to cut the higher education budget and whether to limit raises for certain state employees.
NBAF Lab Bonds Clear Kansas Legislature After Strings Attached
Kansas lawmakers did approve issuing another $202 million dollars in bonds for construction of a national bio-security lab. Governor Brownback had made the request after President Obama recommended about $700 million in funding for the project, for which cost estimates have increases.
The approval comes with the stipulation that the bonds will be sold only if the Congress and the president actually appropriate the federal portion. Some pointed out that Kansas, with 1% of the nation's population is being asked to pay 20% of the cost of the lab.
Judicial Selection Bill Stalls After Chief Justice And Senate Official Clash
Kansas Chief Justice Lawton Nuss accused Senate Vice-President Jeff King was of threatening some judges that court raises might not be forthcoming if they didn't support a change in the way supreme court justices are selected. The proposed change would do away with a panel of citizens, mostly attorneys, who now make nominations. It would make the choice the direct responsibility of the governor, and require the approval of the Kansas Senate.
King denied the assertion and said Nuss was not at the meeting where he allegedly made the statement and should make a public apology
KCI Plans Spawn “Blue Ribbon Panel,” Initiative Petition Drive
Kansas City Mayor Sly James announced the names of 24 people who have agreed to serve on a panel to study whether to build a new single-terminal KCI Airport. The effort will be led by architect Bob Berkebile and American Royal president David Fowler, a retired executive and civic leader.
As the committee prepared to begin its work, a group called Friends of KCI announced that they would start a second petition drive. Spokesman John Murphy said a previous effort to stop the airport plans failed because technically the referendum process applies only to ordinances, not to council resolutions. This time he hopes enough petitions signaturds will be generated to force the city to put the proposed airport terminal changes to a public vote.
Diocese Settles Civil Suit Over Ratigan
The Kansas City-St. Joseph Catholic Diocese settled a civil suit over lewd pictures taken by defrocked priest Shawn Ratigan. The suit was on behalf of a girl who was 2 years old when Ratigan took the photos. Attorneys for the plaintiff said the diocese would pay $600,000, which the Kansas City Star reported to be the largest settlement in a civil dispute in the history of the diocese.
Royals Broadcast legend Fred White Dies At 76
One day after the announcement that Fred White was retiring, the Kansas City Royals announced that broadcaster had died of complications from melanoma. He was already under hospice care when the news of his retirement was made public. Fred White had been with the Royals for 40 years, the majority of which was spent as a play-by-play and “color” announcer on the teams broadcasts. He was 76.