Eco devo bill passes too late to save health care legislation
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Eco devo bill passes too late to save health care legislation

Date: May 15, 2009
By: Chris Dunn, Rebecca Beitsch, Sarah Wire, Brian Jarvis
State Capitol Bureau
Links: HB 191, SB 306

JEFFERSON CITY - Senate majority leaders named the failure of the House to pass a health care bill as their biggest disappointment of the legislative session.

The session ended on a sour note between the House and Senate. The House recessed early on Thursday sending the message to Senate leadership that an economic development bill must pass by midnight for the House to consider health care.

The economic development bill, which Nixon said he wanted on his desk in March, passed the Senate this morning after going into the early hours on Friday morning. Time had expired on the original health care proposal, but bill sponsor, Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles County, threw a new health care proposal into a food stamps bill in hopes of getting it to the House.

The House, however, refused to take up the bill citing the lack of a true compromise as well as the influence of lobbyists.

"At least in terms of having conversations in preparation for the thought we might have a conference committee substitute we could present to the House and the Senate, it was pretty clear when we had those discussions that we weren't going to reach any common ground," said Rep. Doug Ervin, R-Holt.

Speaker Ron Richard, R- Joplin, said that a number of informal meetings with lobbyists was the problem.

"Apparently, there was a number of conferences out in the hallway with hospitals and insurance companies that was never conferenced either," Richard said. "So, I go with the caucus position, others in the building go with lobbyists."

Dempsey said he was willing to change the income requirement for his bill if it meant bringing more uninsurables onto the plan under a later phase of the plan but could not get any specifics from the House.

"I said if that is not satisfactory to you what would be? Do you want to cover (people who make) 20 to 40 percent (of the Federal Poverty Level) and use the rest toward the uninsurables. Twenty to 35 percent? Give me a position that's somewhere in-between the House position and the Senate position, that I can go back to the Senate and try to sell to my colleagues. And I was never given an answer," said Dempsey.

Individuals in both chambers expressed disappointment at the House's decision to hold up the bill's progress with their demand for an economic development bill.

"It just frustrates me that we are letting people that redeem tax credits around this state hold people without health care hostage," said Ryan McKenna, D-Jefferson County, as the Senate debated the economic development bill late into the night.

The Senate reached an agreement off the floor and passed the bill with relative ease Friday morning.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Tim Flook, R-Liberty, would remove the the $60 million per year cap on Nixon's Quality Jobs Act that provides tax credits for technology business projects. Instead, as designated by a Senate substitute, the bill would expand that cap to $80 million a year.

"This bill is interesting because it's one of the, at the same time, bright points and low points of the session," said House Minority Floor Leader Paul LeVota, D-Independence.

LeVota praised the bill because it would create a number of jobs but cited it as a divisive issue between the legislative bodies.

The Senate held the bill in the chamber for months to add several other tax credits. Some senators wanted to cap the historic preservation tax credit program, while others wanted no changes made.

The approved bill, which now goes to Nixon's desk for approval, ended up placing a $140 million cap on the program and also allows the Department of Economic Development to include pre-employment training.

The governor said he wasn't prepared to declare a special session on health care.