Missouri lawmakers inch closer to getting more bills ready to be voted on

Feb 5, 2018
Originally published on February 3, 2018 8:06 am

Lobbyist gifts, a tax credit for the elderly, and a bill frowned upon by labor unions are on next week’s tentative agenda for the Missouri General Assembly.

Some Senate members appear to be close to their own version of a proposal to ban most gifts from lobbyists. Details are being withheld at the moment, but Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said it could be voted out of committee next week.

 

“I hope to spend some time with Rep. (Justin) Alferman (and) a couple of senators getting some input,” he said. “I look to have a committee hearing next week where we introduce a sub bill.”

Alferman, R-Hermann, sponsors the House version of the proposed lobbyist gift ban. It includes exemptions for flowers, plants, and catered events in which every legislator and statewide elected official receives an invitation.

The Senate may also debate a bill that would shrink the size of a tax break used by elderly homeowners and renters, known as the circuit breaker, in order to free up more money for in-home health care services. More than 8,000 recipients face losing those services after Gov. Eric Greitens vetoed a bill last year to shift unused money from boards and commissions to in-home care. He called the bill an unconstitutional gimmick that would divert state funds needed by those boards and commissions.

Debate may also resume on legislation that could permanently ban recipients from receiving SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, if they choose not to work. The permanent ban would happen if a recipient was found to be noncompliant a third time, and those living with that person would lose benefits for six months. Kehoe told reporters Thursday that he plans to bring the bill back up, but Democrats still plan to block it.

“Right now, where it is, my caucus cannot support that legislation,” said Minority Floor Leader Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors.

Work continues in the Missouri House on the state budget for Fiscal Year 2019, which begins July 1. Lawmakers from both parties have balked at Greitens’ proposal to cut $68 million from higher education. Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, the ranking Democrat on the House budget committee, suggests delaying implementing a new law that bases funding for universities and community colleges on how they perform.

“We can’t penalize institutions on top of the additional cuts that they’re receiving this year,” Kendrick said. “It’s way too punitive and not the right year to implement it.”

The full House could take up a bill next week requiring labor unions to get written permission before withholding dues from the paychecks of public employees, along with permission to spend those fees on political campaigns. Opponents argue that existing law already requires unions to get permission, while backers say the bill will increase transparency by holding public sector unions to the same standards as private sector unions.

Follow Marshall on Twitter:@MarshallGReport

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