JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Legislature opens Wednesday (Jan. 7) with two firsts -- a Senate leader the first to become victim to term limits and a former speaker beginning a federal prison sentence.
Bob Griffin, seen wandering the Capitol halls last week, will be reporting to a Florida corrections facility as the current speaker brings down the gavel to begin the session.
The former speaker was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to accepting funds from a lobbyist whom he had urged special interest to hire.
While Griffin sits in his cell, his former colleagues will be debating a wide range of issues for the 1998 session:
Senate Pro Tem Bill McKenna will open his final session. The Barnhart Democrat is the first legislator to be affected by the term limits law passed by voters in 1992.
The law limits lawmakers to no more than eight years in any one state legislative chamber. This will be only McKenna's sixth year in the Senate.
However, his seat is up for election this year because he first was elected to an unexpired term. Since full Senate terms last four years, he would exceed the eight-year limit if he were allowed to run for re-election this year.
A proposed constitutional amendment to repeal term limits is on the agenda. Instead, it restricts the length of time a person can serve in a leadership position -- four years limits for both speaker and pro tem.
But McKenna concedes there's only a slight chance for approval of the proposal -- and, even if approved, it would be too late for him.
A growing pile of bills have been filed to cut taxes in response to this fall's administration announcement that tax collections will continue to exceed the state's revenue limit -- despite last year's cut in the sales tax on groceries.
Both the governor and legislative leaders have proposed centering this year's tax cut on home property taxes.
Other ideas proposed include a sales tax exemption for autos and tax deductions for the costs of private and parochial schools.
If lawmakers do not cut taxes, the "Hancock Revenue Lid" will force the state to refund the excess revenues.
Because refunding the money costs the state about $1 million, House Speaker Steve Gaw said "it makes more sense to let people keep the money in their pocket in the first place."
A bill would create a "Methamphetamine Cleanup Fund" designed to cleanup and dispose of toxic chemicals found in any place where meth is produced.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources will be in charge of cleaning up the labs. The toxic chemicals result from the mixing of some household cleaners with gasoline additives and other ingredients to make the meth drug.
Other bills would impose stiffer penalties for meth production and sales.
The various meth bills have been filed in response to the governor proclaiming Missouri as a "meth mecca," ranked number one among the states for production of the illegal drug.
High school students wanting to get their driver's license would need to get permission from their high schools under a current piece of pending legislation. License criteria will be determined by each school district. It effects both public and private schools.
Kids may be attending school earlier next year. A bill would repeal the post-Labor Day start date for public schools. Another piece of legislation would make school attendance mandatory until the age of 18 or graduation.
For a second year in row, Missouri lawmakers will be asked to guarantee extra funds for inner-city schools as a way to convince the federal courts to conclude the decades-old desegregation cases in Kansas City and St. Louis.
This fall, an interim committee recommended spending $1,000 more per student in the city schools. As happened last year, that approach has run into stiff opposition from rural lawmakers.
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