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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of April 30, 2012

After an eight hour filibuster by the Senate's only medical doctor, a bill to create a prescription drug monitoring program is dead.

Although the Senate gave first-round passage to the measure, Senate Majority Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, said the bill creating a government database of medications prescribed to patients will not be considered for final approval given the lack of time remaining in the legislative session.

Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, led the effort against the bill and said prescription drug monitoring by the government would be an infringement of a patient's right to privacy.

"This bill causes every citizen to be forced against their will to give up their privacy and their personal information," Schaaf said.

The measure is sponsored by Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, and creates a database of people on certain drugs for doctors to check before writing prescriptions. The drugs that would be included in the database are mostly narcotics and pain killers. A patient's name and information would have been purged from the database after six months.

Engler confirmed the issue would not advance further and said more Missourians are going to die from overdoses because of it.

He said the database would help weed out people addicted to narcotics, who "doctor shop" and get multiple prescriptions from different doctors.

"Prescription drugs are being abused. It's the number one drug abuse problem in the country. We are going to be the only state that doesn't monitor prescription drugs in the country," Engler said.

The Missouri Senate's only registered physician has filibustered the "Prescription Drug Monitoring Act" yet again in this legislative session.

Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-Buchanan, blocked the legislation, which would establish a government database to monitor all doctor prescribed controlled substances.

"This bill causes every citizen to be forced against their will to give up their privacy, their personal information," said Schaaf.

Sen. Kevin Engler, R- St. Francois, the legislation's sponsor, says the bill will reduce the number of deaths by drug overdoses and prevent "doctor-shopping".

"Prescription drugs are being abused. It's the number one drug abuse problem in the country. We are going to be the only state that doesn't monitor prescription drugs in the country," said Engler.

So far, 48 states have passed prescription drug monitoring legislation.

Formal negotiations between the House and Senate over the state's $24 billion budget have become unusually tense.

One of the issues between the two chambers has been a disagreement on how to fund veteran's homes.

House Budget Chairman Rep. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, said he blames Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, for the gridlock.

He said Mayer was "playing games" with the budget and accused him of playing chicken with the lives of veteran's and kids.

Mayer responded to Silvey's criticism and referred to him as the "junior budgeter in the House" and said he canceled scheduled meetings between negotiators.

The House passed their veteran's plan Wednesday which shifts casino revenue away from early childhood programs to the veteran's home. The House replenished the early childhood funds with money from a national settlement against tobacco companies.

The Senate has yet to take up the House position, but has crafted their own.

A draft proposal by the Senate Veterans Committee Chairman Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, keeps the House plan, but adds language eliminating professional training programs for women.

The House passed a bill that would require employees and students to report incidents of bullying and to notify the families of the victim.

This bill would not only implement programs to prevent bullying, but it would also educate the student body and faculty of the harmful side effects.

Representative Sue Allen, R-St. Louis County, who sponsors the bill said, “Teachers, families, students, bulliers all have an opportunity to be better and safer.”

Under the bill, schools would allow people to anonymously report incidences of bullying in order to help eliminate this problem in the best way possible.

The bill reforms teacher tenure and sets criteria for firing teachers. It doesn't eliminate tenure altogether, but does not allow seniority to be one of the factors when eliminating staff.

The criteria is as follows:

  •  Individual performance makes up at least 70 percent of the consideration, including evidence of student achievement such as standardized test scores, which would be determined by the district.
  •  A record of misconduct or criminal activity is considered a negative factor.
  •  Significant contributions to the school as a whole such as sponsoring an extracurricular or tutoring program.
  •  Special training or certification such as a master's degree will be considered a positive factor.
  • Each contract and collective bargaining agreement authorizes use of evaluations as the basis for firing decisions. 

    Majority Floor Leader Tim Jones said this bill is a tough decision, but it is about recognizing good teachers.

"This is about rewarding and accelerating and exalting those great teachers so you don't have to get rid of them based upon an antiquated, horribly ham-stringing policy set up by some special interest group in some contract," said Jones.

Opponents of the bill argued it would end teacher tenure.

"Seniority is the same thing as tenure, they are one in the same...That seniority equates to salary so when we say, in the bill, that salary shall not be a controlling factor...we are setting up a condition for lawsuits," said Rep. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City.

The bill passed the House by a vote of 83 to 76 after keeping the board open for more than ten minutes and now moves to the Senate.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, was at the state Capitol Thursday to meet with state lawmakers and speak to the Missouri House.

Blunt spoke about what is going on in Washington D.C. and the current direction of the country. He told Missouri's legislators they need to be a part of national debates that affect the state.

“His speech is educational and we were thrilled to have him,” said House Speaker Steven Tilley.

Blunt is not up for re-election this year but declined to choose a favorite among this year's Republican candidates running for U.S. Senate. He said he would assist whoever wins the August Primary.

A conference committee planned for the afternoon was canceled Wednesday, delaying formal discussions between the House and Senate over the state's 2013 budget.

Even though formal budget negotiations are now pegged to begin on Thursday, budget conferees are still holding informal meetings to discuss the budget. Debates over whether to cut funding for a blind health care program and whether to raise wages for some state employees are among some of the top issues before the budget conference committee.

The House and Senate also remain divided on the passage of a $70 million tax amnesty program, which the House accounted for in their budget proposal, while the Senate did not.

The state's $24 billion operating budget was held up on the Senate floor last week in an unprecedented move by nine Republican senators. The "gang of nine," as they have been dubbed by some fellow legislators, said they would hold up the budget process until a list of demands was met by Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, who is the Senate Budget Chair.

After the Senate finally approved the budget last week, House Budget Chair Rep. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, said he was disappointed that senators did not want to negotiate on the tax amnesty measure.

Legislators have until May 11 to deliver a budget proposal to the governor.

An amendment was added to the bill, originally intended to reform the teacher evaluation system, that essentially counteracted the entire legislation.

The part the amendment kept was a change to the "last in, first out" policy, where teachers with seniority are protected from layoffs.

The bill now sets up a several "criteria for reduction in force," saying seniority can not be one of those criteria.

  • Individual performance makes up at least 70 percent of the consideration, including evidence of student achievement such as standardized test scores, which would be determined by the district.
  • A record of misconduct or criminal activity is considered a negative factor.
  • Significant contributions to the school as a whole such as sponsoring an extracurricular or tutoring program.
  • Special training or certification such as a master's degree will be considered a positive factor.
  • Each contract and collective bargaining agreement authorizes use of evaluations as the basis for firing decisions.

Several representatives expressed concern that the individual performance part of the consideration placed too much of an emphasis on standardized test scores. However the bill's sponsor, Education Committee Chairman Scott Dieckhaus, R-Washington, said the bill does not specify what that evidence would be. The district would be required to set those standards for each district.

Several Democrats spoke against the bill, each having spend more than 29 years in public education, with the argument that the bill would cause anxiety among teachers who want job security.

The House bill was adopted with a vote of 80-78. A similar bill to reform tenure was debated in the Senate, which amended the bill to extend the years of service before tenure is granted instead of eliminating the practice altogether.

Charter schools could expand across the state, but not without meeting a higher standard of accountability. The House Education Committee adopted a bill Wednesday to change the law regulating charter schools.

Charter schools are public schools that operate independently of traditional school districts. The schools are held to performance standards by their sponsor or a governing board. Students at charter schools still take the statewide Missouri Assessment Program test but are not subject to MO School Improvement Program accountability procedures.

Legislators have been attempting to hold charter schools to the same standards as traditional public schools. Charters school performance by state testing standards is as varied as performance of traditional public schools. Charter schools are also not required to report their financial status, an issue that recently played a role in the state voting to close six charter schools in St. Louis.

Under the bill, charter schools would be held to the same accountability standards as traditional public schools, just outside the official MSIP procedure. They would report their financial and performance data to the sponsor of the school, which would be responsible for intervention. Sponsors have the option to intervene immediately or close a school if standards are not met.

While this bill would not create charter schools, the bill's sponsor Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, said it provides another option for rural school districts that are trying to avoid consolidation or districts where there is demand for an alternative form of public education. According to a poll presented by Students First, a student advocacy organization, 69 percent of Missourians supported expanding charter schools outside of St. Louis and Kansas City.

Charter school is one of the major education issues of the current session including public school funding and dealing with the unaccredited St. Louis and Kansas City school districts. The bill will now go to the House floor for debate and if no changes are made, it will go to the governor.

 

A Republican state representative publicly announced that he was gay and is denouncing legislation that would limit open discussions of sexuality in public schools.

At a press conference held Wednesday morning Rep. Zach Wyatt, of Green Castle, said he would no longer lie to himself about his own sexuality and that being homosexual should never be a Republican or Democratic issue.

Wyatt's announcement comes in response to a Republican-backed bill that would make it illegal to teach subjects or have extracurricular activities that talk about sexual orientation, unless the subjects relate specifically to the science of human reproduction.

Bill sponsor, Rep. Steve Cookson, R-Fairdealing, has said that his bill is misunderstood and that he would not withdraw the legislation. Cookson has also said that he thinks public schools should focus on core subjects of teaching, such as math and reading, and not sexuality.

The committee heard bills dealing with everything from COPD to child care laws. All were unanimously voted through to the House floor.

One of the bills modified the bill known as Sam Pratt's law by establishing higher fines. No one spoke in opposition of the bill. One representative asked how providers would be notified about the legislation should the bill become a law. The sponsor replied that it was difficult to do so since no one knows which providers are unlicensed.

Another bill would establish more regulations for reporting child abuse.

A resolution to recognize November as "COPD Awareness Month" was also discussed, in addition to a bill on food stamps and another resolution on child abuse.

A bill to require county assessors to consider market factors in determining value of real property for tax purposes unanimously passed the House Governmental Affairs committee on Tuesday night.

With the economy fluctuating so much within the past few years, this bill would require county assessors, when assessing properties every two years, to take the market into account.

The bill was already passed in the Senate and Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-St. Louis County, said this is the fair thing to do.

"Thirty percent of the homes on the market right now are foreclosures. It's not fair people to have to be paying for something that the value is not there," Cunningham said.

Cunningham said the purpose of the bill is to provide more accurate and reflective property values to taxpayers.

St. Louis County assessor Jake Zimmerman expressed his support for the bill in the Senate committee hearing.

The bill is now headed to the House floor, and if passed heads to the governor's desk.

This bill would require the Department of Transportation to establish minimal yellow light change interval times for traffic-control devices.

This set interval time would be adjusted in accordance with nationally recognized engineering standards.

Rep. Rick Stream, R-St. Louis County, who sponsors the bill, said, "Once the red light cameras were installed several years ago, several municipalities around the state shortened the length of time for the yellow lights so that they could get more offenders actually going through the red lights." 

Rep. Margo McNeil, D-St. Louis County, opposed the bill.

She said the state is short in budget and cannot afford to do this. She also added that the new system would not make a huge difference.

Missouri Republican U.S. Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer sponsored the Mark Twain coin act, allow the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury to issue five dollar gold coins and one dollar silver coins.

Cindy Lovell, the executive director of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal, says the proceeds from the coins will be dedicated towards the four non-profit Mark Twain sites.

"It's a very big deal not just to honor Mark Twain, but to actually generate real cash for non-profit especially during these type of times" Lovell said.

If approved by the U.S. Senate, Mark Twain coins would be available in 2016.

The Missouri House voted down an amendment that would create a scholarship program that allows students transfer to another school district if they are being bullied.

Opponents argued that bullies are in every school district and transferring student is not the right solution.

Rep. Genise Montecillo, D-St. Louis, said, as a parent, she believed that her son should understand how to deal with bully, instead to run away.

Rep. Sara Lampe, D-Springfield, said bullies should be helped and educated in addition to punishments.

The amendment failed and the House took no action on the underlying bill.  

  House and Senate Discuss Expansion of No Call List. 05/01/2012

The House Committee on Utilities has approved a bill that would expand "Missouri's No Call List" to include automated phone calls and cell phones.

Automated calls from school districts, Amber Alerts, and work-related phone calls would be exempt from the proposed legislation.

The bill would bar companies from using a fake aliases on caller-IDs. Violators would be subject penalties up to a $5,000 fine.

Groups making political phone calls would also be required register with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

The bill would also block solicitors from text message solicitation.

The Senate Commerce Committee also head testimony Tuesday regarding a bill that would add cell phones to the "Missouri No Call List".

A bill that would attempt to remove the requirement of employers to provide medical coverage for birth control was debated by insurance company representatives and pro-life organizations in a Missouri House committee.

Under the bill, employers would only need to provide birth control if an employee has a medical need for it.

This bill, however, goes against the Affordable Care Act, which the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on in June.

Under the Obama's administration contraception mandate, women would have access to birth control free of charge from their employer or insurance companies.

Sen. John Lamping, R-St. Louis County, sponsors the bill. He said the measure gives more religious freedom to employers so they don't drop health care coverage all together.

Samuel Lee from Missouri Right to Life testified in favor of the bill. He said the current law lacks a few things.

"One is a clear enforcement mechanism and a clear remedy for an organization or individual whose rights are violated," he said.  

Lee said Lamping's legislation would resolve this issue.

Coventry Health Care representative Cheryl Dillard said this bill would put insurance companies in a difficult legal position, if the bill passes and the Affordable Care Act is approved by the supreme court.

"It appears that Missouri will have a federal health care exchange and those carriers that are not complying with the federal law would probably not be very welcome in the exchange and that would disadvantage us as carriers in a pretty indescribable way," Dillard said.

The bill needs an affirmative vote by the committee before moving to the House floor.

Republican Representative Ward Franz of West Plains is proposing a bill keeping animals from having equal or more rights than humans.

The bill is a pro-active measure sparked by outside groups around the country.

Franz said in a committee hearing it is somewhat related to Proposition-B and the equabilities with dog breeding.

Opponents to the bill said it could lead to animal cruelty.

The Missouri House of Representatives assigned twelve out of thirteen Senate versions of the House budget bills to a conference committee on Monday. Although the bills were assigned to a conference committee, the committee members have not yet been named.

The only budget bill to be passed was a bill that specified the appropriation of money to the Board of Fund Commissioners. The bill passed on a unanimous vote of 146 to 0. The rest will be sent to conference for further discussion.

The House passed two other bills, the first would to require children younger than 17 to have their parents present to give permission to use tanning facilities. The second bill changes laws regarding elections. Both will be sent to the Senate.

The Senate Elections Committee voted 4-1 to pass a bill that would require presidential and vice-presidential candidates to provide proof of birth and citizenship when filing with the Missouri Secretary of State's office.

The bill's effects would not be felt until the 2016 election.

Lawmakers expressed their skepticism on whether this will actually be taken up for debate in the Senate or not.

If passed in the Senate, the bill would go to the governor's desk.

Get the radio story.

Only a few weeks remain in the legislative session, but representatives from the Missouri Coalition for the Environment and Renew Missouri took to the Capitol to criticize a bill that would allow Ameren to increase its rates to pay for construction costs before a new reactor is built.

The bill has been debated in one form or another for the past several years but never passed. It would allow Ameren to increase its rates to pay for an early site permit for an additional power plant.

Sen. Brad Lager, R-Maryville, said it's doubtful any action will be taken on this bill before the session ends on May 18.

Less than three weeks after a former state governor and CEO of Missouri Employers Mutual was indicted for misappropriation of funds, a Missouri House committee has moved on a measure to further investigate the insurance company.

The House Government Oversight Committee unanimously approved a bill Monday that would create a committee to investigate the Columbia-based company. The bill's original language only established a Senate committee, but an amendment by a Columbia Democrat, Chris Kelly, would make the future investigation a joint effort between the Senate and the House.

While legislation is not required to establish an investigative committee, Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, said passing the legislation would make it known that lawmakers were dedicated to investigating the issue.

"It could be a good idea to privatize MEM but, on the other hand, I don't like legislating on the fly," Barnes, who is the House committee chairman, said.

An earlier audit of Missouri Employers Mutual stated the company had lavishly spent money on trips and special employee benefits. The audit also stated that this conduct is inappropriate for a quasi-governmental entity, such as MEM.

The best local art students in area dioceses gathered together to sketch parts of the Capitol building as part of Sketch Day.

Sketch Day has been in place since 1949 and benefits both elementary and high school students.

The students are first judged on their artwork at their own school. Once the best are picked from each school, these students are given the opportunity to go to the Capitol to sketch.

At the end of the day the students are judged on their artwork once more.

The Missouri Senate has given first-round approval to a constitutional amendment that would increase the number of citizens on the Appellate Judicial Commission from 3 to 4 and give more power to the governor.

The Commission is now composed of one Supreme Court Justice, a member of the bar from each appellate district, and a non-bar member citizen from each appellate district.

The Appellate Judicial Commission fills vacancies in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals.

"The changes I am trying to make is that the people can hold somebody responsible for those decisions that are made," said Sen. Jim Lembke, R-Saint Louis County, the resolution's sponsor.

Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Lawrence, opposed the resolution and said it would "scare" him if the issue went to a statewide vote.

"In a state like Missouri, where we no longer have contribution limits for political candidates, bringing the Supreme Court into that mix, there is a great potential for corruption," Goodman said.

-Get the radio story here.

The House passed the so-called "Whistleblower Protection Act," which would place caps on punitive damages against businesses.

Rep. Kevin Elmer, R-Nixa, sponsors the bill. He said he has worked hard to reach a compromise on this bill.

"We are trying to balance the rights of individuals along with the right to earn a living, the right for businesses to operate within the state," said Elmer.

Opponents of the bill said it actually limits the rights of whistleblowers by limiting the amount whistle blowers can receive in court. Whistle blowers are already protected under federal and state law.

"People do not need to be restrained when they are reporting things that are going to impact our citizens in a negative manner," said Rep. Karla May, D-St. Louis.

The bill passed by a vote of 86 to 66. It now moves to the Senate for further approval.

The “More for Less” campaign, designed by the Missouri Students Association (MSA), protested at the state Capitol building against rising costs to higher education.  

In January, Gov. Jay Nixon proposed a budget cut of 15 percent to public universities. If that cut had passed, Missouri higher education would take a funding blow for the third year in a row.  

About 125 students attended the protest.

MSA President Xavier Billingsley said higher education should be the priority of a state, and investing higher education can help develop the state and create jobs.

MU student Mary Karchar said the increased tuition is very hard for her parents to pay.

Rep. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, and Rep. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, spoke at the rally and said they support this campaign.

Silvey is House Budget Committee Chairman and oversaw the reversal of Nixon's proposed cuts. Nixon also took steps to counter his own proposal and added $40 million from a national mortgage settlement to the higher education budget.

On Tuesday, the Senate passed their version of the budget with level funding for higher education.

House Speaker Pro Tem Shane Schoeller, R-Greene County sponsored the bill.

The bill tightens the proof of identification requirements for Missouri Residents when registering to vote.

If put into law immigrant and refugee advocates are afraid it will make it harder for naturalized citizens to vote.

The Missouri Family Network, testified in support.

Although, The Missouri Secretary of State's office testified against it.

As well as Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates.

The bill is now headed to the House floor.

The Missouri House gave first-round approval to legislation aimed at preventing failures of future economic development projects.

The legislation is in response to the failed artificial sweetener plant in the Mid-Missouri town of Moberly.

The project had promised hundreds of Missouri jobs, but was shut down when Mamtek defaulted on a payment of $39 million in bonds issued by the city after creating less than a dozen jobs.

The bill would require information to be shared between state and local officials on companies applying for development incentives and would subject start-up company executives to financial background checks.

Bill sponsor Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, said it's time to hold companies accountable.

"If somebody wants millions in taxpayer benefits, they've got to be willing to take small, very small steps to prove to the state of Missouri that they're actually delivering on the promises they're making," Barnes said.

The House must approve the bill one more time before sending it to the Senate.

The May 6 deadline is approaching for The American Cancer Society and American Lung Association to get signatures to increase Missouri's tobacco tax by seventy-three cents.

If the required amount of signatures are reached, voters would vote on the increase on the the November ballot.

If approved, a spokesperson for a Missouri chapter of the ALA says it could produce up to $423 million in revenue for the state.

Smoke-shop employees, republican legislators, and the Governor are all opposed to the tax.

Several Democratic legislators and members of the American Cancer Society and American Lung Association are in support of the measure.

 

The Missouri Senate restored funding to a government-funded health care plan for the blind.

The plan would continue health care coverage for blind residents whose incomes are too high to qualify for the state's Medicaid program. Yet House Budget Chair Ryan Silvey is already criticizing the Senate's decision. He said the $10 million plan unbalances the budget.

The passage of the revised plan came after a two-day stall by Republican senators.

Now it will go back to the House for review.

The Senate Education committee discussed a bill to make CPR training a graduation requirement for high schoolers.

Sally Sharp, a teacher, cried as she testified in favor of the bill. Sharp almost died when she went into cardiac arrest and none of her surrounding co-workers knew CPR. However, someone else came in to perform CPR on her and save her life.

"Can you imagine ten years from now, if this bill passes, how many more high school students are going to be able to help someone survive a very scary experience?" said Sharp.

While some senators and witnesses spoke out in opposition for the bill, their concerns were the same. Some did not want the training to be a graduation requirement, and some were concerned about the cost of the training for the state.

Costs for the training varied by organization; however, the bill's sponsor, Rep. Rick Stream, R-St. Louis, says the training would only cost about $200.

The bill would equip nearly 70,000 high school seniors with the skills to save a life with CPR. The bill would not require students to become certified, only trained in how to perform CPR.

The training could occur in any class in school. 

According to the American Heart Association, almost 383,000 people go into cardiac arrest outside of a hospital every year. Only about 11% survive, most likely because they don't receive CPR in time.

The committee discussed the bill but took no action.

The joint resolution would put it to a vote of the people on whether or not the state adheres to certain federal laws and actions.

Supporters say the federal government have overstepped their bounds on laws and regulations that should be left up to the state. They cite specific constitutional amendments and sections.

The opposition says the bill could be grounds for secession. Sen. Robin Wright-Jones said it's part of the Republican agenda to break away because "we have an African-American president."

However, there are some state and U.S. constitutional issues the legislation faces.

    The Senate ended a two day gridlock and passed the state's $24 billion budget early Wednesday morning.

The Senate passed their budget, which includes level funding for K-12 and higher education and some cuts to social services programs. The Senate began debate Monday afternoon, but was unable to come to an agreement for two days. 

A group of nine Republican senators threatened the budget's passage and presented a list of demands to Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, before they would let the budget come to a vote. 

The demands included eliminating a state employee pay increase and a reduction in early childhood grant funds.

Schaefer said his budget was balanced, despite the employee pay raise and a loss of $70 million in expected revenue from a tax amnesty program that has languished in the General Assembly over the past year.

The group of Schaefer's fellow Republicans disagreed.

"I believe structurally the budget is not in balance," said Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, who was one of the nine Republicans objecting to the budget.

The Senate's budget is $87 million lower than what the House passed and what Gov. Jay Nixon proposed. Major changes include eliminating $16 million in child care subsidies and $11 million in foster care programs.

The Senate rejected an attempt to remove a proposed pay increase for state employees late Tuesday night during the debate on the state's budget.

Since Monday afternoon, the Senate had been deadlocked on the state's $24 billion operating budget as a group of nine Republicans emerged to challenge the budget put forward by Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia.

Seven Democrats joined ten Republicans in keeping the proposed two percent increase for state workers making more than $45,000 a year.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, offered the amendment to eliminate the pay increase, which is projected to cost the state $32 million.

"My concern is that when you have a budget that has a several hundred million dollar shortfall and you have a new decision item the pay plan will happen at the expense of other things," Dempsey said.

Schaefer, who authored the pay plan, opposed the effort to not raise the pay of state workers who last saw a raise in 2008.

"If you want to keep them working, you have to pay them," Schaefer said.

With the planned pay increase the Senate's budget is still $87 million below what Gov. Jay Nixon proposed and what the House passed last month.

"If we say we value our state employees then we need to show it," said Sen. Kiki Curls, D-Kansas City, who voted against the amendment.

The budget must be sent to Nixon's desk by May 11.

Under a proposed amendment, biological parents and adoptive parents could voluntarily make a “post adoption contract agreement” to allow contact after the adoption between the biological parents and the child.

Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, sponsored the amendment. He said most biological parents want to see their children even though they are not under a good condition to raise the child.

Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said he supported the amendment as well as the bill.

“Under this amendment, nobody has to do anything. It’s all voluntarily…Letting go is so hard some times,” said Kelly.

Rep. Rory Ellinger, D-St. Louis County, opposed to the amendment. He said this amendment would set up a conflict between biological parents and the adoptive parents.

The House passed the bill, with the amendment, and now moves to the Senate.

An amendment to a transportation bill will make it easier to transport the radioactive chemical, colbalt-60, through Missouri.

The legislation would waive the transportation fee for companies like Nordion Inc. (based in Canada) who transport radioactive waste.

Nordion Inc. is a member of the trade group which drafted the amendment.

House Transportation Committee Chairman, Rep. Charlie Denison, R-Springfield, offered the amendment to the House Transportation Committee.

"This deals with materials that have been coming through the state for probably as long as I can remember. It's nothing new. It's something that we need to have," said Denison.

"It was presented and attached relatively quickly...After looking into it last weekend, I would have to question the whole idea. It deals with a higher level of radiation than anyone anticipated," said Rep. Tom McDonald, D-Independence.

  • Get the radio story here.

The House approved a bill that would require parental consent for children under the age of 18 to use a UV tanning bed.

Rep. Kurt Bahr, R-St. Charles County, proposed an amendment that would require minors to wear 50 SPF sunscreen while tanning. After several representatives pointed out down falls of the amendment, including difficulty of enforcement, Bahr withdrew the amendment.

Rep. Gary Cross, R-Lee's Summit, sponsors the bill. He said it would educate parents so they can make better decisions for their children.

"If we can make a difference in somebody else's life, that's what it's all about," said Cross.

He said this bill does not intend to hurt small businesses.

"I don't believe that we need government and we need to spend our law enforcement resources going in to different tanning salons and monitoring to make sure that they've got permission slips," said Rep. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg.

The bill needs to be approved by the House one more time before moving to the Senate.

The Senate adjourned near midnight after eight hours without a compromise on Missouri's $24 billion budget.

A group of nine Republican fiscal conservatives held up the budget over concerns the state is spending too much money. The group of fiscal hawks held several closed door meetings with Republican Senate leadership during Monday's evening session.

Majority Floor Leader Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, said progress had been made over the course of the evening and the two groups only had a few issues left to resolve. Among the issues are a proposed pay raise for state employees and cuts to early childhood programs.

Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, was one of the nine senators who blocked a vote. Lembke directed his criticism toward Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia.

"There are a number of colleagues who have a concern that is not being met," Lembke said.

The lengthy debate on the state budget is unprecedented in recent decades. Typically, the Senate rubber stamps the budget approved by the Appropriations Committee.

The group of nine said they were concerned about the revenue estimates used to balance next year's budget. Schaefer's budget relies on $50 million of additional revenue from lottery sales than what the state took in last year.

When asked if the group's claim the budget was not in balance was true, Schaefer said "no."

The sounds of singers and bagpipes echoed through the Capitol rotunda as Missouri's Department of Labor honored the state's fallen workers.

April 23 marked Missouri Workers' Memorial Day.

People showed up to honor loved ones who died working in construction, transportation, and many other industries.

The mother of a Joplin tornado victim recalled her son's heroic acts that saved lives during the storm.


Missouri Digital News is produced by Missouri Digital News, Inc. -- a non profit organization of current and former journalists.

Missouri Digital News is produced by Missouri Digital News, Inc. -- a non profit organization of current and former journalists.