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Legislators tackle pensions and budget

May 05, 1999
By: Edward Klump, Carrie Beth Lasley, David Grebe and Clayton Bellamy
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB 65, HJR 26, SB 295

JEFFERSON CITY - With the abortion controversy now behind them, Missouri lawmakers turned to pensions and budgets Wednesday.

PENSIONS

The Senate rejected a plan that would eliminate legislative pensions, but instead voted to increase retirement packages for both themselves and other state workers.

Sen. Sarah Steelman, R-Rolla, sponsored an amendment that would have eliminated legislative pensions altogether. She said she doesn't think legislators need full-time benefits for their job.

"The legislature was designed to be part-time," she said. "I don't see any other jobs offering a full pension for a part-time job."

Steelman said she was particularly upset that several lawmakers tried to sneak an increase past the public. She said the proposal wouldn't have passed if it weren't tied to plans for other state employees.

"I think the public should know that it was hidden in a bill that has teacher and state employee retirements," she said.

The plan, which passed 21-12, would increase pensions over eight years. The bill also would give an increase to teachers and many other state employees.

Sen. John Scott, D-St. Louis, said the increase for lawmakers was always part of an overall hike for state employees. He said the legislature received a much smaller increase than those for the governor and state judges.

Gov. Mel Carnahan said he has no problem with legislative pensions, but that he's unhappy with the current bill.

"I have no objections to legislators having pensions," he said. "I think the bill passed by the Senate is objectionable."

BUDGET UPDATE

Lawmakers were also rushing to meet Friday's 6 p.m. deadline for the budget. The budgets for the next fiscal year were especially kind to education in Columbia and throughout the state.

The budget for the University of Missouri remained untouched after the House and Senate conferred to write a final higher education budget.

A program that aids high schools that prepare students for the future received more than $15 million after Senate committee members wanted to offer less.

"Rep.(Scott) Lakin has worked hard on this bill," said Rep. Jewell Patek, R-Chillicothe. "He fought hard for A-plus schools. I think that's going to help a lot of school districts, including mine."

The Missouri State Council for the Arts would receive less funding after House and Senate members compromised on an amount less than what was previously in the bill.

"We (House members) followed the intent of the legislation," Rep. May Scheve, D-St. Louis, said. "The House committee members held off against the Senate for a long time with semi-success. We didn't want to hold up the entire budget for one item. We are simply $350,000 short of funding the full amount."

PARTIAL-BIRTH ABORTION

Despite the Senate's overwhelming approval of an infanticide bill, Gov. Mel Carnahan promised another veto this year.

"I will undoubtedly veto the abortion bill," Carnahan said. "The very idea of all of these men making decisions for women," he said, is something he's willing to make a campaign issue. Carnahan will challenge Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Missouri, for the U.S. Senate next year.

The Senate voted 27-6 to approve a measure supporters say will ban partial-birth abortion. But Carnahan said abortion-rights opponents wanted to do more than just ban partial-birth abortion.

"They want a test case to take down Roe v. Wade," he said.

Carnahan said he's still uncertain as to whether his veto would be sustained.

"We'll work very hard," he said.

OTHER NEWS

If you're unlucky enough to be hit by a city bus, you may at least be able to sue for more money than before, according to a bill nearing a vote in the legislature.

The House Wednesday debated an update to the state's sovereign immunity law that would increase the award an individual could get from suing a city or the state from $100,000 to $300,000. The maximum amount for a group of people is capped at $2 million...

House Minority Leader Wayne Crump continued to push his proposal that would limit the people's initiative petition powers over the Conservation Department.

The measure, which just passed the House, appeared dead earlier this week until Crump managed to get a committee meeting abnormally late in the session.

It will probably take some doing to get the plan onto the Senate floor since so much legislation stands before it.

"I'm going to talk to the Senate floor leader to see if we can't jump over some bills and get a vote," Crump said.