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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of March 5, 2012

House records show 8 women, including 6 Democratic Representatives, spoke during recent floor debate over contraception.

Majority Floor Leader Tim Jones, R-St. Louis County, took to twitter on Thursday where he posted 7 tweets before noon calling the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board partisan, libelous and defamatory. "For some reason that particular publication has decided to become more of a tabloid and a gossip piece and the majority of their stories are focused on attacking individual members of the House and Senate," Jones said.

During a press conference on Thursday, Minority Floor Leader Mike Talboy, D-Jackson County, linked the situation to the Speaker of the House's decision to induct Rush Limbaugh into the Hall of Famous Missourians. "So I guess he knows how all the women that Rush Limbaugh attacks feels," Talboy said.

Tony Messenger was the author of the editorial in question. He said he's glad Jones read his piece and that Jones is free to talk about it however he likes.

In a 143 - six vote, the Missouri House passed legislation that will closely monitor prescription drugs in the state.

Rep. Keith Frederick, R-Rolla, sponsored the bill which will give pharmacists and doctors seven days to add the prescriptions they dispense to an on line database.

"The abuse of narcotics is a major problem not only in our state, but in adjoining states as well," said Frederick.

The bill received opposition in the Senate Wednesday from Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-Buchanan.

"Talk about big brother. This is the worst kind of government intrusion on our lives", said Schaaf.

The Missouri General Assembly heads off to spring break after passing a business agenda with many items still left to tackle this session.

The House and Senate sent two bills to Gov. Jay Nixon before they went on spring break that were both pushed by the Missouri business community. The legislation deals with changes to Missouri's workplace discrimination laws and worker's compensation.

Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, said the first half of session was a "good start."

"I am pleased we were able to pass through the Senate three of our top priorities," Mayer said referring to changes in worker's compensation, workplace discrimination laws and a review of state administrative rules.

Speaker of the House Rep. Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, said the House had accomplished 70 percent of their legislative agenda already.

House Democratic leaders, however, had a different opinion of the legislative session so far.

"This has been the craziest 38 days I have ever had. There are a myriad of bad things," said Minority Leader Rep. Mike Talboy, D-Kansas City, referring to Republican priority legislation, including the workplace discrimination bill.

University of Missouri students said they were outraged by the recent nomination of Rush Limbaugh by Missouri House Speaker, Rep. Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, into the Hall of Famous Missourians.

Limbaugh recently gained national attention after making a calling a law student a "slut." They said Rush Limbaugh is the appropriate figure to be put in the Hall of Fame.

An student Roze Pirvany said Limbaugh’s comment was insulting and discriminating toward women and minorities.

Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia, said she supported the protesters to express their view and objected to speaker Tilley’s induction.

House Speaker Tilley said despite Limbaugh’s respectless language, he is an extremely successful people with fame. Tilley said he will stay with his decision.

The Senate passed a bill that would require illegal discrimination to be a motivating factor, not just a contributing one, in all lawsuits, except adverse impact cases.

The bill passed by a vote of 23 to eight, but the bill's sponsor, Sen. Brad Lager, R-Maryville, is expecting a veto from the governor.

"Hopefully what will happen is after we get back from Spring break, we'll have the opportunity to get some feedback from him and we still have the Senate bill in the House and we can always move that bill if we can come to an agreement," said Lager.

Governor Jay Nixon vetoed a similar bill last year. Sen. Maria Chapelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis County, spoke against the bill for five hours during the Wednesday night filibuster.

"I am very happy that the bill is going to be vetoed by the Governor and I don't think at this point there are enough votes to override that veto in the House," said Chapelle-Nadal.

The bill now moves to the Governor's office for approval.

Missouri's Senate gives final approval to judiciary overhaul bill.

The bill seeks to lower the number of non-violent offenders serving time in Missouri's prisons and prevent them from returning to jail.

The change requires the Department of Corrections to place certain offenders in a 120 program before revoking their probation and sending them back to prison.

Missouri Supreme Court judges have been urging such an overhaul for the past few years. Missouri currently spends about $600 a year for the Department of Corrections.

Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, sponsored the bill, which also establishes a joint legislative committee to look into the state's entire criminal code.

The measure is a product of an interim Senate committee on corrections last fall.

The bill now goes to the House for consideration. On Thursday, the House passed a similar bill dealing with non-violent offenders.

Missouri Democratic Senators - with Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis County, leading the charge - are once again delaying a vote on the workplace discrimination bill, but this time it's the House's version of the bill. House Bill 1219 is identical to Senate Bill 592 - which Chapelle-Nadal filibustered for 10 hours, but was eventually passed out of the Senate. Senate Minority Floor Leader Victor Callahan, D-Independence, joined in the debate.

"This bill is a steaming pile of bad public policy," said Callahan. "I have confidence that the Governor will take his shovel and shovel this bill out the window where it belongs."

The bill would require someone suing over workplace discrimination to prove that the discrimination be a "motivating" factor, not just a "contributing factor" of termination. The bill would also put a cap on the amount of damages someone can receive in a workplace discrimination lawsuit.

Proponents say the bill would bring Missouri law inline with Federal workplace discrimination law.

Opponents like Chapelle-Nadal say it would undo years of civil rights progress that state has made.

The passage of this bill would send it to the Governor's desk.

Representatives tried to reduce the large cuts in funding to programs offering aid to the blind in Missouri in the 2013 budget substitute.

The House Budget Committee heard amendments proposed to Gov. Jay Nixon's proposed 2013 budget. Two of the proposed amendments would increase funding to the Blind Medical Subsidy Fund. Rep. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, previously announced plans to end a $28 million program to the blind in order to eliminate the 15 percent cut to higher education.

Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, proposed an amendment to undo the $28 million cut made earlier in the session. His amendment would create a transfer of funds from the Economic Development Advancement Fund to the Blind Medical Subsidy Fund. The amendment would transfer $2 million to the Blind Medical Subsidy Fund.

Silvey also proposed an amendment that would provide appropriation authority for the Blind Medical Subsidy Fund. Silvey's amendment would increase funding to the Blind Medical Subsidy Fund by $6 million if his bill passed that would eliminate the exemption from state and local sales tax on the sale of newspaper supplies and equipment used to produce newspapers.

Rep. John Rizzo, D-Kansas City, proposed an amendment that would decrease University of Missouri System Funding by $300,000.  Rizzo proposed another amendment that would use the $300,000 and create grants to purchase gunshot detection technology.This technology would be able to pinpoint the exact location of fired shots.

The budget substitute passed in the House committee almost unanimously. Only two bills received dissenting votes, mostly along party lines.

Republican State Auditor Schweich's name appears on a document filed with the Internal Revenue Service under the organization name of "Schweich for U.S. Senate."

Schweich's treasurer Joseph Passanise filed the document on March 6th.

However, Schweich has yet to file for candidacy or make an official statement.

Schweich's competition includes Democratic U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, and GOP candidates Former Missouri Treasurer Sarah Steelman and U.S. Representative Todd Akin.

The deadline to file for primary candidacy is March 27th.

The Missouri Senate is in support of Bill 772 that would keep companies who've invested more than $1 million with Iran from doing business with Missouri.

Senator John Lamping, R-St. Louis County,  is the sponsor of the bill.

The bill would put pressure on Iran, who is trying to develop nuclear programs.

Florida and California passed similar legislation and New York legislation is in progress.

A bill that would replace teacher tenure with multi-year contracts was approved by the Senate General Laws Committee on Tuesday.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-St. Louis County, is similar to a provision in the education package bill awaiting debate in the House.

Both bills would establish the "Teacher Multi year Contract Act," eliminating the possibility of tenure for new hires beginning July 1, 2013. Cunningham's bill replaces tenure with a system of renewable contracts as well as requiring the department of education to define "student growth" as a way to evaluate teachers.

After being passed out of committee, the bill will likely move to the House floor after the legislature's spring break.

State representatives passed a bill Monday that would limit an employee's right to sue a coworker for an injury sustained on the job.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles County, reverts worker's compensation back to the standard before a 2007 court case altered the law. In addition to restricting co-employee liability, the bill adds occupational disease back to worker's compensation coverage.

The House, which passed the bill with a 87-68 vote, will send the legislation to the governor who has 15 days to sign or veto the bill.

Republicans made worker's compensation a top priority this session and last after receiving word from businesses about their concerns.

The House General Laws Committee held a hearing Tuesday on a resolution expressing support for Israel.

Rep. Randy Asbury, R-Higbee, said the resolution would strengthen the bond between Missouri and Israel.

"Our relationship with Israel has been naturally valuable and productive," Asbury said.

Missouri has had long standing economic ties with Israel. During the years 1997 through 2010, Missouri conducted $672 million of trade with Israel.

Asbury said this resolution seeks to further strengthen those economic ties.

The House Minority Caucus sent a letter to Speaker of the House Steven Tilley, Tuesday, calling on him to abandon his plans to induct Rush Limbaugh into the Hall of Famous Missourians.

Assistant Minority Caucus leader Tishaura Jones, D-St. Louis City, says that Limbaugh is not worthy of the honor. She said, "There's nothing about Rush Limbaugh, especially in light of his recent comments about Ms. Fluke that shows that he deserves that honor."

But Speaker of the House Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, says he is still going through with his plans.

48 House members signed the letter, which says the induction of Limbaugh is an endorsement of misogynistic attitudes.

Minority Caucus Leader Mike Talboy, D-Jackson County, said, " begs the question as to some of the treatments and view points toward women..."

The Council on American Islamic Relations along with a number of other groups came to the Capitol to speak out against legislation they say would oppress their communities. Many signs at the group's rally specifically identified legislation by Sen. Will Kraus, R-Jackson County.

Kraus sponsors a bill that would require schools to check the citizenship status of students at the time of enrollment.

Faizan Syed, executive director of the Council of American Islamic Relations, spoke at the rally.

"Whenever there's intolerance, whenever there's injustice, whenever there's bigotry or hatrid we go after those people who are starting the problem because we are the solution," he said.

Kraus said his legislation would just ask schools to check citizenship so that the state can find out how much it's costing to educate illegal citizens.

A proposed resolution which would prohibit any person or employer from being forced to participate in any health care program was debated in the House General Laws Committee on Tuesday.

The resolution would block the federal health care called "Obamacare" by its critics.

Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific, sponsored the resolution.

Curtman told the committee the resolution will protect the freedom and liberty of Missourians.

Rep. Mike Colona, D-Saint Louis City, says the resolution is a ploy to draw conservative voters to the polls in the November elections.

If approved by the House and the Senate, the resolution would be on the November ballot.

House gives first round approval to a bill that would create a prescription drug monitoring program in Missouri.

Rep. Keith Frederick, R-Rolla, is the bill sponsor and said on the floor that some patients are gaming the current medication system by getting multiple drug prescriptions from multiple physicians or pharmacies. Frederick said his bill would help reduce this problem.

The plan would build a statewide database to help licensed pharmacies track patients’ prescription records.

Frederick also said Missouri is one of only two states without a prescription drug monitoring program in place.

Rep. Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, and Rep. Jeanne Kirkton, D-St. Louis County, spoke in favor of the bill.

No one spoke against the bill during the House debate.

The bill needs one more vote in the House before moving to the Senate.

Three bills that would have allowed students to serve on the UM Board of Curators were shot down Tuesday in a House committee.

Rep. Jill Schupp, D-St. Louis, sponsored one of the bills, which stated that one of the nine curators may be a student, who would have full voting rights.

Each congressional district in Missouri has a representative on the board. After re-districting, the state will lose one district and therefore one curator.

Rep. Zachary Wyatt, R-Kirksville, sponsored similar legislation which would have required that the ninth member of the board be a student of graduate or professional standing. The student could be from the same congressional district as one member of the board.

Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, had a similar bill that does not specify that the student curator must be a graduate or professional student.

With a 7-4 vote on all pieces of legislation, none of the bills were adopted by the committee.

People who abuse narcotics often go to multiple doctors to get prescriptions.

Senator Kevin Engler proposed legislation to monitor prescription drugs to prevent this doctor shopping.

Senator Rob Schaaf, who is a doctor, says this bill will not prevent any drug related deaths and infringes on our liberties.

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, has proposed a bill to allow students from the University of Missouri System to have a student curator.

The student curator would fill a soon-to-be vacant seat on the UM Board of Curators. Each Congressional district has representation on the board. The vacancy will come as the state loses one district.

Student leaders testified before the Senate Financial and Government Organization and Election committee on the bill.

There was no opposition at the hearing.

The committee may vote on the bill the week of March 19.

A week after he called a Georgetown University law student a "slut," radio personality Rush Limbaugh is slated to be inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians.

House Speaker Rep. Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, said he was "proud" to be the one the induct Limbaugh.

"He certainly is deserving of being in the Hall of Famous Missourians," Tilley said calling Limbaugh one of the most recognized radio personality in the county.

Limbaugh drew heavy criticism for his comments last week when he called law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute" on his radio show. Limbaugh later apologized for his remarks and said his "choice of words were not the best."

Rep. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, said she is "praying" that Tilley reverses his decision to honor Limbaugh, calling the induction a "slap in the face for all the women in Missouri."

The House Government Oversight committee approved a bill Monday that places greater due diligence standards on state and local officials.

The packaged legislation combines a series of bills put forth by Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, suggesting additions to Missouri law in order to prevent future project failures.

The bill places requirements on the Department of Economic Development to have greater communication with local government officials while investigating economic development projects. The legislation also mandates the creation of a five-star rating system, criminal background checks for the creators of start-ups and third-party verification of a company's finances.

Last Week

Missouri's death penalty was questioned Thursday morning by a task force for the American Bar Association.

The task force conducted a study of Missouri's capital punishment and published recommendations for the General Assembly.

Paul Litton, task force member and University of Missouri law professor, said, "Missouri has inadequate measures to guard against wrongful conviction."

Members of the task force said their report was neutral on whether there should be a moratorium on executions. Not one member, however, said that they supported capital punishment.

Some of the task force's recommendations included a review of how the police identify suspects and whether or not mentally ill people should be sentenced to death.

The team could not cite any particular past or present case that the recommendations would have changed.

The Missouri Senate beat the weekend deadline to approve House Concurrent Resolution 8 and voted in favor to reject the MO State Tax Commission's recommendation to increase the grades of agricultural land that could be taxed based on their productivity and yield.

The resolution was approved in a 19-8 vote.

Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, sponsored the bill, and said that in light of recent natural disasters that have afflicted Missouri, farmers can't afford to pay the increased taxes.

"Following 2011, where we had multiple disasters in 'Ag Country,' with the floods, droughts, straight winds, tornadoes...everything that really made 2011 not a very good year...I personally didn't think it was a good time to be raising taxes," said Munzlinger.

There was push back by senators from urban and suburban areas of the state, who said they doubted that the agriculture industry had as bad of a year as they claimed and said that it was unfair that farmers have not seen tax increases in 15 years.

"I have read articles that the farming industry was one of the bright spots in the economy this year," said Sen. Tim Green, D-St. Louis City.

The top budget leader in the Missouri House announced his plan to restore the proposed cut to public universities by eliminating a state program for the blind.

House Budget chairman Rep. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, plans on ending a $28 million program for the blind in order to reverse the 15 percent cut to public universities called for by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

"The governor's assault on higher education ends today," Silvey said.

Silvey's plan would add a total of $106 million more than Nixon's proposal giving colleges the same amount of money they are getting this year.

Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said he applauded Silvey's work to restore the cuts to colleges, but did not agree with taking money from the blind.

"I would rather go into the administration of state government for the cuts than the blind," Kelly said.

To restore Nixon's higher education cuts, Silvey took $28 million from the Supplemental Aid to the Blind program which provides care for 2,800 people, who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid. Blindness is the only disability in Missouri to have this special fund.

"It's about a fundamental question of fairness in the disability community," Silvey said.

The House passed a bill that would add a state lottery ticket for the Veterans Commission Capital Improvement Trust Fund.

It would require the state lottery to develop and begin selling the tickets July 1, 2013.

"This is very necessary, needed to insure that we continue to provide services to our veterans in our seven veterans homes. Without this resolution, the veterans home fund and trust fund will be bankrupt by the end of 2013," said the bill's sponsor Rep. Sheila Solon, R-Blue Springs.

All of the profits from the lottery would go toward veterans programs.

The bill passed by a vote of 137 to 14. It will now move to the Senate for approval and would require a public vote before the amendment is added.

The Senate Judiciary committee reviewed a bill that would eliminate the sentencing disparities between powder and crack cocaine. The current powder cocaine to crack ratio is 75 to 1.

Under current law, the penalty for possessing two grams of crack cocaine or 449 grams of powder cocaine is a class A felony, which is punishable by a 10 year minimum prison sentence or a maximum of a life term.

Shelley Blecha testified in favor of legislation that would enact rules and penalties for unlicensed child care providers.

The bill is named Nathan's Law after Blecha's son, who died in the care of an unlicensed child care provider when he was three months old.

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Jill Schupp, D-St. Louis County, says she is pleased with the support the bill has garnered thus far.

However, Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem, wanted more clarification on vague language included in the bill, and Kerry Messer, a representative from Missouri Family Network, opposed certain limits placed on how many children a provider can care for at one time.

A bill read before the Missouri Senate would change Missouri's corrections system to revamp parole and probation guidelines.

The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mt. Vermont, said he hopes the bill would reduce the number of offenders in prison, as well as deter offenders from returning to crime, thus saving taxpayers money.

If this bill passes, it would be legal to kill a mountain lion.

Upon killing a mountain lion, you would have 24 hours to turn the carcass in to the Department of Conservation.

Animal advocacy groups argued these animals are native and killing them shouldn't be legal.

Nearly 400 people filed for public office on Tuesday.

Sen. Jim Lembke,R-St.Louis County, was not one of them pending on the approval of the redistricting maps.

Lembke could possibly file later on for district 15, which is now represented by China Hub bill sponsor Republican Senator Eric Schmitt.

Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-St.Louis County, filed for district seven and filed a lawsuit against the new redistricting maps too.

Missouri may soon know how much the death penalty actually costs in comparison to a sentence of life without the chance of parole.

A bill presented to the Senate Governmental Accountability committee would require the state auditor to audit the costs of administering the death penalty, in the state of Missouri. The audit would compare both the direct and indirect costs born by both the county and state government in prosecution and defense of all homicide cases on or after January 1, 1977 where the death penalty was sought and where it would not. An equal number of cases will be chosen by a random sampling method.

The incarceration costs for individuals on death row cost more. Litton said most of the costs come from the trials and the preparation for the trials. He said the pretrial takes longer because the jurors must be death qualified and will follow the law.

American Civil Liberties legislative consultant, Jeremy Lafaver said he believes Missouri should have the study conducted by a state auditor. He said that the if interest groups conduct the studies, it would call into question the end result of the study.

The Senate Jobs Committee heard a bill establishing the Missouri Works Program.

The program would provide tax incentives to businesses for job creation and capital investment.

Republican Senator Eric Schmitt sponsors the bill. He says he believes it is the next step in improving job growth in Missouri as a manufacturing state.

Tax incentive credits alloted for fiscal year 2013 would total $111 million. The incentives would peak in fiscal year 2015 at $141 million.

Schmitt says the main goal of the bill is to reward companies for creating jobs and helping the economy grow.

The Missouri House approved a bill, and policy favored by pro-business groups, that would change the way damages are awarded in civil cases.

The measure paves the way to comparative negligence in civil suits, meaning those found guilty in multiple defendant cases would pay damages based on ho much they are at fault.

Currently, if one defendant does not have adequate funds to pay the damages, then the other defendant(s) must pick up the tab.

This is policy that the Missouri Chamber of Commerce has pushed in the past. The Chamber of Commerce states as part of the 2011 "Fix the Six" movement that this kind of tort reform is needed - so that businesses who may not be entirely at fault do not have to pay 100 percent of the damages.

If passed, this legislation would require exotic animal owners to obtain a permit for owning a primate.

The only primate owners who would be required to obtain a permit would be large ape and baboon owners.

If this bill passes primate owners would also be required to microchip their pets.

The bill passed through the committee with a vote of 6-1.

A special Senate Committee began its investigation into the Department of Social Services Tuesday.

Jennifer Tidball from the Missouri Department of Social Services summarized the major funding sources and grants for the department.

The report also gave options for the committee whether to eliminate or reduce a program.

One of the grants mentioned include Childcare and Development Block Grant. The purpose of this grant is to help low-income families to receive temporary assistance to pay for child support.

Tidball said the program costs the state $128.1 million of general revenue funds.

The Committee will meet next week to continue their investigation. They will be looking into the state's Medicaid "spend down" program. 

A leading St. Louis County conservative in the Missouri Senate has filed for office in the heart of Kansas City, after the new state Senate map moved her district across the state.

Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-St. Louis County, filed for the 2012 election in her current Senate seat Tuesday, despite her district being moved across the state. The new seventh district includes the urban core of Kansas City and is currently represented by Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City.

As candidate filing began Tuesday, Cunningham said she may launch a legal challenge to the new Senate map, but filed in her old district anyway. Her only opponent so far is Rep. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City.

"I think I will do whatever is necessary to make sure it is constitutional," Cunningham said about the map.

The new Senate map was released by a bi-partisan commission appointed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. The map does not become final until March 12, when the commission has to take another vote for its adoption.

Members of Missourians for Responsible Lending and Metropolitan Congregations United said payday loans are too high. They want to cap the loans at 36 percent interest.

On Tuesday, they began their information session with a prayer and said it is against their religion to have high loan rates because the Bible teaches to take care of the poor.

Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia, has been trying to get loans capped at 36% for the last three years. She said the loans are hurting consumers.

"They get a loan, they don't quite understand the terms. Then they go get another loan...and then they get further and further in debt so it becomes a cycle of debt," Still said.

She said she hopes an initiative petition capping interest at 36 percent will have enough signatures to be on the ballot.

Tuesday's start for candidate filing period was filled with uncertainty as the state Senate map has yet to be finalized.

Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, said he has not filed for the 2012 election because the preliminary Senate map puts him in a Democratic-leaning district.

“Based on what is happening in the redistricting process, there are still a lot of uncertainties. And I will keep all my options open.”

Rep. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, is running against incumbent Sen. Robin Wright-Jones, D-St. Louis City, in 2012, but the map has drawn her home 200 feet out of that district.

Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-St. Louis County, whose district was eliminated in the new maps has filed in a Kansas City based district that shares her current district number under the new map.

“I will do whatever is necessary to make sure it [the redistricting map] is constitutional,” Cunningham said.

Candidate filing is open until March 27. The new Senate map could be finalized as soon as March 12.

The Missouri House passed a bill that would change the laws regarding workers' compensation and unemployment benefits.

The bill sponsor Rep. Barney Fisher, R-Vernon, said there were two major changes to the current law.

The bill would allow certain claims to be delivered electronically rather than certified mail.

"This will allow them considerable savings of around $100,000 if they can get the statutory changed," Fisher said.

The bill also changes the requirement for quarterly electronic reports. Missouri currently requires that employers with 250 or more workers must submit a quarterly wage report to the division electronically. The bill would reduce the requirement to employers with more than 50 employees.

There was no opposition to the bill. It passed unanimously in the House.

A decision by U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis, to challenge U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, for a congressional seat has left Democratic lawmakers hoping a primary between the two can be avoided with a Missouri court decision.

As candidate filing began Tuesday, Carnahan and Clay filed for the same congressional district, which includes all of St. Louis City and northern St. Louis County.

The Missouri Supreme Court is expected to rule within days on a legal challenge to the new congressional maps passed by the General Assembly after overriding a veto from Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.  

"We are still hopeful that the Supreme Court and this body will end up revisiting the maps, and we'll be able to work that out, because I would hate to see them run against each other," said Rep. Susan Carlson, D-Saint Louis City.

Rep. Tishaura Jones, D-St. Louis City, says the contest will not be pretty and will be divided along racial lines.

"This is going to be a very divisive race, for the city and for the region," Jones said, "It's going to be hard, its going to be nasty, its going to be ugly, everything that people don't like about politics, this race is going to embody that."

With less than a day to go before representatives can begin filing for candidacy, Missouri is still without newly established House districts.

Plaintiff Paul Wilson, representing the voters in the Supreme Court case Johnson v. The State of Missouri, said that the 7.8 percent standard deviation in population in the districts could be lowered. He said the high deviation violates the Missouri Constitution saying the districts should be as close as possible to being equal in population.

The Supreme Court judges and Wilson debated the language of the Constitution. The definitions of “possible,” “practicable” and “as may be” were questioned throughout the case.

The plaintiffs also argued the new maps violated the continuity requirement.

Plaintiff and former legislator, Joan Bray said it bothers her that rivers are barriers and prevent someone from moving around the district without leaving it.

Bray also said she believes the new districts are too big. She said if the population in one district is larger than another, an individual’s vote in the larger district does not mean as much.

Rob Hess, representing the legislators, said an intervening body of water does not break the continuity requirement.

There is no perfect map, and somebody is always unhappy with every map,” Hess said. “I think this map is a good map and I think it meets the constitutional requirements.”

The Supreme Court did not reach a decision on the new district maps, and the filing date has not been delayed.Candidate filing begins Tuesday at 8 a.m. with the assumption that the new maps are the established districts even if they are being debated. If the maps change, candidates will be required to refile under the new districts.

On the eve of the opening day for candidate filings, a petition was filed in Cole County circuit court asking for a temporary stall in when candidates can file for Missouri Senate districts.

Attorney General Chris Koster filed a temporary restraining order against any candidate filing anytime during the next 15 days, pushing the filing date back to at least March 12th.

Filing for the August primary opens 8am Tuesday. But maps for the Missouri Senate have not yet been finalized.

A tentative map was approved by the re-districting commission last week, but cannot take effect for two weeks and requires another vote by the commission.

As a result, at 8am Tuesday, persons wishing to run for the Senate would not have a definite answer as to the district of their residence.

The Monday court filing delayed the start of the Senate's session which had been in a filibuster last Thursday on a bill to delay the filing dates by one month.

The filibuster was led by Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-St. Louis County, whose district effectively would be eliminated under the tentative map. Cunningham's term expires the end of this year and she would be blocked from running for re-election in her new district for two years.

Following up on a promise to move quickly on legislation that would affect future projects, state representatives heard testimony over a series of bills that place certain restrictions on economic development officials.

The bills, which were filed by members of the House Government Oversight Committee last week, collectively require stricter due diligence standards as well as new policy procedures for government officials and businesses involved in economic development projects. Among the suggested legislation is a requirement for better communication between the Department of Economic Development and local governments, the establishment of a five-star rating system for projects and a mandate for municipalities to provide bond insurance.

The legislation emerged after the General Assembly concluded two investigations into the financial collapse of an artificial sweetener plant in Moberly. The Mamtek project was supposed to bring over 600 jobs to the city, but failed after the company did not make a bond payment to Moberly. Members of both chambers of Missouri's legislature put forth recommendations earlier this month in order to give guidance to the state to make sure failures such as Mamtek did not happen again.

The proposals would also require municipalities to hold public hearings before issuing appropriation bonds. A separate bill, sponsored by Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, would add the requirement of a public vote as well. Opponents to the legislation said the new requirements would hinder business growth in Missouri, especially for time sensitive projects.

Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, who chairs the committee and led the House investigation into the collapse of Mamtek, advised opposition to act with "due speed" if they wanted to discuss changes with the committee members.

"The clock is not going to run out on these issues this session," Barnes said.

  Interstate 70 drivers share their thoughts about Missouri toll road proposals. 02/27/2012 plan to make the freeway a tollway passes with legislative approval.

Those who commute, travel and truck across the state are expressing their opinions about the proposal. Truck drivers disagree the most. Some commuters may use secondary roads to travel to work. Rural residents are afraid of extra costs and the economic impacts to travel from place to place.

However, some would be happy to see the toll as a user-fee for out-of-state travelers who may not buy gas in the state and many favor the improvements that would come from the plan.

Missouri drivers sound off on MoDOT's I-70 toll road proposal.

Although Missouri Employers Mutual Insurance Company, also known as MEM, was created under state statute, the company claims they are not a public company.

Schweich's office audited the company and found it's necessary for the legislature to make the decision if MEM is a public or private company.

The audit found the company to spend lavish amounts on employee bonuses and compensation for terminated workers.

Public companies are not allowed to give these severance packages to former employees.

After weeks of debate and discussion over the expansion of workers' compensation, the House Committee on Workforce Development and Workplace Safety passed Senate Bill 572.

The bill would expand coverage to include occupational diseases, thus restricting lawsuits for occupational disease awards.

Additionally, under the new change, persons in prison would not be covered.

The bill now moves to the full House.

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