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Republicans define agenda for closing week of session

May 09, 2003
By: Sara Bondioli
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Legislation pushed by Missouri businesses is on the Republican leadership's agenda as the legislature heads into its last week.

Lawmakers return Monday for a five-day marathon, which ends with the close of the session at 6 p.m. Friday.

House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, R-St. Louis County, stressed that revenue enhancement have to come first. Republican leaders have said the legislature needs to pass $150 million in revenue enhancements to balance the budget, which it sent to the governor late last week.

"Job creation is the most important thing we can do this year," Hanaway said.

She said she would like to pass bills that address limits on lawsuit liability awards, restrictions on worker's compensation and tougher protections for children in foster care.

"I think we have a superb opportunity to help the people who can least help themselves and help everyone who wants a job get back to work," she said.

But Democrats said they are concerned that passing new measures such as workers' compensation restrictions and changes in foster care would create new debts in a budget that was already difficult to balance.

"While we are cutting spending and talking about that, we have probably added about another hundred million (with new programs created by bills), depending on what fiscal notes you want to take a look at," said House Minority Leader Mark Abel, D-Festus.

He said the worker's compensation and foster care bills alone would cost the state over $60 million.

"If they're willing to figure out how to pay for those two bills, then we might have a chance to take a look at them," Abel said.

Senate Republican Floor Leader Mike Gibbons, R-St. Louis County, said legislators are close to a compromise on contentious parts of the workers' compensation bill.

He also said the governor has expressed a desire to receive a workers' compensation bill that he feels he can sign.

"The governor has weighed in and stated to the parties that those who were relying on him to veto any workers' comp. bill that came to his desk were mistaken," Gibbons said.

Hanaway said proposals to lift loss limits on gambling would probably not be given debate time in the House.

She said other revenue bills have a greater chance of passing and will be sufficient to balance the legislature's budget plan.

Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, said many of this session's major issues have already passed the legislature, including nursing home regulation, concealed weapons, and 24-hour waiting periods on abortions.

"In my 11 sessions here, I have never seen a Friday before the last Friday in which so many key items are already on the governor's desk," he said.