Lawmakers to enter final day with numerous issues left open
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Lawmakers to enter final day with numerous issues left open

Date: May 17, 2012
By: Matthew Patane
State Capitol Bureau
Links: HB 1329

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's legislature enters the final day of its 2012 session with few major issues remaining for legislative attention.

The legislative session concludes for the year at 6pm Friday, May 18.

Most of the issues identified as priorities by state leaders at the start of the session at the beginning of the year have stalled during the course of the legislative process.

Fixing the state's formula for distributing money for public schools, restricting worker lawsuits against businesses, economic development, restoring campaign finance disclosure requirements struck down by the courts and making a decision on toll roads for interstates are among the issues left on the sidelines.

Filibusters in the Senate derailed several priority issues for Republicans including restricting or eliminating tenure for public school teachers and establish a statewide system for tracking drug prescriptions.

Although Republican leaders identified restricting lawsuits by diseased workers against their employers as a top priority, they enter into the final day of the session without an agreement with the governor on a compromise the governor would be willing to sign. Both last year and earlier this year, Gov. Jay Nixon had vetoed previous legislative proposals on the issue.

The Senate's key sponsor -- Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles County -- said he was not inclined to proceed with the issue on the final day of the session without some sort of agreement with the governor. The measure would extend Workers' Compensation coverage to those suffering occupational diseases.

A worker covered by the program is restricted from seeking private lawsuit awards against the employer. Advocates of the bill argue the threat of lawsuits have imposed a burden on business. Critics argue against restricting the right of a worker, or a worker's surviving relatives, from seeking higher financial compensation for an occupational disease.

Legislators did send a bill to the governor earlier this week that would prohibit employees from suing their coworkers for accidental on-the-job injuries.

Republicans also put forth a bill this session that would have required employees to prove discrimination was a motivating factor -- instead of the current standard of a contributing one -- in his or her termination of employment, but Nixon vetoed that legislation as well. Members of the House and Senate eventually slimmed down versions of similar bills to only include provisions that would limit who could be considered a "whistleblower" in the workplace, but these measures have also stalled.

The legislative tensions with Nixon were raised Thursday when Nixon attacked a measure that had been approved by overwhelming margins of both Republicans and Democrats in the legislature just hours earlier.

The bill would reinstate local sales taxes on out-of-state car sales, a provision that was struck down by the Missouri Supreme Court earlier this year. The legislation would make it so Missourians who purchase cars outside of the state would be charged the local sales tax of the community they live in, as well as the state sales tax.

That had been the procedure in Missouri until the state Supreme Court's decision just weeks ago.

Hours after the bill's passage, however, the governor criticized the bill and said in a statement that it "would bypass a vote of the people and improperly impose a tax increase."

The legislature will conclude its session with a plea from one member that the House refrain from the traditional ceremony of tossing massive piles of legislative papers into the air when the chamber adjourns.

"Once those papers leave their hands, somebody has got to clean that  up," Rep. Sylvester Taylor, D-St. Louis County, said to his colleagues earlier in the week.

"There's no fun in cleaning this up. It may be fun for you to get to throw it in the air, but the person has to come behind us and spend a couple of hours cleaning up our chamber."

House members tossing bills and amendments into the air when the chamber adjourns for the year has been one of the most photographed events of the legislature year after year.

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