Tuesday, March 31, 2009

CWIP Repeal Passed by Senate Committee

One of the most anticipated—and controversial—bills of the session, SB 228, made headway today after it was passed 6-4 by the Senate Commerce Committee. It now moves to the Senate floor for debate.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Delbert Scott (R-Lowry City), changes the state's current construction work in progress law (CWIP), which bans investor-owned utilities from passing on the expenses of building a power plant to their customers before it goes online.

SB 228 would allow utilities to recover the financing costs through increases in customer rates prior to plant start-up. Eligible power plants include nuclear facilities, such as the proposed second nuclear plant in Callaway County.

Retroactive Sex Offender Laws Get First Senate Nod

One of the first orders of business for the Senate this week was to give a first-round passing vote to SJR 3, sponsored by Sen. Jason Crowell (R-Cape Girardeau).

This resolution would put a constitutional amendment to the voters, that if passed, would create an exemption to the current constitutional ban on retroactive laws. The purpose of the exemption is to allow sex offender laws—such at the sex offender registry—to apply retroactively. This means any person convicted of a sex crime prior to 1995, when the registry was enacted, would now be required to register with the state.

Another Senate vote sends SJR 3 to the House.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Senate Gives Initial Approval to Education Bill

Lots of key issues were discussed in the Senate this week, including the economy and jobs, tax credits, abortion, crime—and education.

An omnibus education bill with a whopping 30+ amendments received a first-round Senate vote of approval in the wee hours of Thursday morning. Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph) is the sponsor of SB 291, which among other things, allows schools to offer virtual courses; institutes teacher performance standards; and ensures that all the revenue from the casino loss limits repeal passed last November by voters goes to Missouri schools.

The bill needs another Senate vote before it moves to the House for consideration.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Senate Says "No" to Texting While Driving

The Senate today gave SB 130, sponsored by Sen. Ryan McKenna (D-Crystal City), a final vote of approval, sending it to the other side of the Capitol for the House to debate.

If passed, texting while driving on Missouri highways—including reading, sending or writing text messages—could mean an infraction and a moving violation on the offending texter's driving record.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Long-Term Care Facilities and Safety

Missouri's long-term care facilities may soon see increased safety standards after the Senate gave a first-round passing vote to SB 89 today. It needs one more Senate vote before it can go to the House for approval.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bill Stouffer (R-Napton), requires sprinkler systems to be installed in recently updated facilities to help with fire safety. Also, any person hired by the state to inspect these facilities cannot have been employed by one within the past two years.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Major Supplemental Budget Bill Passed by Legislature

Today the Missouri House agreed with the changes the Senate made to HB 14 before last week's break, approving the more than $312 million supplemental spending bill for the remainder of the 2009 fiscal year. The bill fills in budget gaps for various state programs and services, including education and health care, through June 30, 2009. HB 14 now moves to the governor's desk for his signature.

Expect the Senate to take up the 13 FY 2010 budget bills in the coming weeks.

Back from Mid-Session Break

The Senate is back in full force after standing adjourned last week for mid-session break. Rather than easing back into their legislative work, senators debated SB 264, sponsored by Sen. Rob Mayer (R-Dexter), for more than five hours last night. The controversial bill makes it a crime to coerce a woman into having an abortion. It also expands the current informed consent laws, requiring pregnant women considering an abortion to receive new info detailing the risks of the procedure AND the physiological characteristics of an unborn child at different stages. After the lengthy debate, SB 264 was placed on hold.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Senate Adjouns for Mid-Session Recess

The Missouri Senate today adjourned for its mid-session recess. As of adjournment, the Missouri Senate has given final approval to 57 bills that have now moved to the House for similar consideration. One bill, SB 313, has been passed by both the Senate and House and has been sent to the governor’s desk.

Of the 576 Senate bills introduced this legislative session, 140 have been passed by their respective Senate committees.

One House bill, HB 14 (a supplemental budget bill), has received a second passing vote from the Senate. It now returns to the House for its approval.

None of the 18 Senate Joint Resolutions have made it entirely through the legislative process yet.

The Missouri Senate will resume its legislative work on March 23 at 4 p.m.

 

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Senate Gives Initial Approval to its Version of Major Supplemental Budget Bill

The Missouri Senate today gave initial approval to its version of the first budget bill of the session, a supplemental appropriations measure that fills in budget gaps for the current 2009 fiscal year, which ends in June. The Senate must give another passing vote to House Bill 14 before it moves back to the House for its approval.

Each year the General Assembly considers funding needs that arise during the middle of the budget year and makes adjustments accordingly through an all-encompassing supplemental budget bill. The measure allocates additional funding to various state departments, agencies and programs for fiscal year 2009.

House Bill 14 provides more than $312 million in additional funding to the state. Among other things, the measure supplements funding for the state’s foundation formula for public K–12 schools, MO HealthNet services and workers’ compensation claims.

The Missouri Senate will soon begin debating the budget bills for fiscal year 2010, which begins in July. The General Assembly is constitutionally required to pass the state budget by May 8.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Senate Bill 313 Becomes First Measure Sent to Governor’s Desk

Today Senate Leader Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph) signed off on Senate Bill 313, sponsored by Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin) and co-sponsored by Sen. Joan Bray (D-St. Louis), effectively sending it to the governor’s desk.

The bipartisan legislation is designed to help lawmakers and government officials track the more than $4 billion Missouri is expected to receive from the $787 billion federal economic stimulus bill passed by Congress and signed by the president last month. It creates two separate funds, the Federal Budget Stabilization Fund and the Federal Stimulus Fund, within the state treasury to receive and retain money provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The measure, passed on Monday (3/9) by the House with an amendment, was returned to the Senate for approval. The Senate voted today to pass SB 313 with the House’s changes. Because the legislation was passed with an emergency clause, it becomes effective upon receiving the governor’s signature.

 

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Senate Passes Several Resolutions

The Missouri Senate today gave its approval to four Senate Concurrent Resolutions. They now move to the House for similar consideration. The resolutions include:

  • SCR 2, sponsored by Sen. Jason Crowell (R-Cape Girardeau), which recognizes October 3rd of each year as Science Day.
  • SCR 5, sponsored by Sen. Bill Stouffer (R-Napton), which urges Congress to deny any request that would permit a study of the Missouri River's congressionally authorized purposes. States upstream of the Missouri River have requested that the United States Army Corps of Engineers conduct a study to reexamine the authorized purposes of the Missouri River reservoir system.
  • SCR 8, sponsored by Sen. Wes Shoemyer (D-Clarence), which urges Congress to support the continuation of horse processing in the United States. Proponents of the resolution say that thousands of unwanted horses are exposed to potential neglect and abandonment each year, and rescue facilities do not have the resources to feed and shelter them all.
  • SCR 16, sponsored by Sen. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), which urges the U.S. Air Force to select Whiteman Air Force Base as the headquarters for Global Strike Command. This program will coordinate all of the Air Force’s nuclear efforts, likely by the end of 2009. Whiteman Air Force Base is one of six bases under consideration.

 

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Drunken Driving Awareness Program Sees First Passing Vote from Senate

The Missouri Senate today gave a bill that establishes a statewide drunken driving risk reduction awareness program a first-round vote of approval. Senate Bill 93, sponsored by Sen. Tim Green (D-St. Louis), now moves to the House for similar consideration.

 

The program established under SB 93 would provide for the placement of signs at or near the scene of a drunken driving accident.

 

Any person may apply to the Missouri Department of Transportation to sponsor a drunken driving victim memorial sign in memory of an immediate family member who died as a result of a motor vehicle accident caused by a person who was driving while intoxicated. Upon the request of an immediate family member of the deceased victim, MoDOT would place a sign at the appropriate location.

 

The department would charge the sponsoring party a fee to cover the cost of designing, constructing, placing and maintaining the sign. Signs would remain in place for a period of 10 years, after which, the signs may be renewed for another 10 years upon repayment of the maintenance fees.

 

The signs would resemble a Missouri license plate and feature the words "Drunk Driving Victim!", the initials of the deceased victim, the month and year in which the victim was killed, and the phrase "Who's Next?".

 

Also under SB 93, all private roadside memorials or markers commemorating the death of a drunken driving victim are prohibited. No person, other than a representative of MoDOT, would be allowed to erect a drunken driving victim memorial sign.

 

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Resolution Creating Blue Ribbon Panel on Economy Passes Committee

 

 

Today the Senate Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics Committee passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 14, sponsored by Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Glendale). The resolution is now eligible to be taken up for debate by the full Senate.

SCR 14 creates the Blue Ribbon Panel On Job Retention And Economic Growth, which would advise and make recommendations to the governor, General Assembly and state agencies on matters concerning the social and economic effects of the loss of any major corporate presence and other businesses within the state. The panel must develop a comprehensive statewide plan for job retention and economic growth and issue preliminary recommendations for legislative action by February 1, 2010.

The panel is charged with several tasks, including:

  • Determining the impact out-of-state business relocation and job loss has upon charitable giving, the social well-being of affected areas and the state and local economy.
  • Studying the impact current state and local tax incentives have on business decision-making and recommending any changes or additional incentives that are necessary to facilitate job retention and economic growth.
  • Assessing the educational needs of existing and potential Missouri businesses.
  • Examining the need for infrastructure improvements necessary to attract new and retain existing businesses.
  • Developing recommendations for enhancing the attractiveness of this state to business.