Missouri's Conservation Commission membership would be expanded from four to six members under a constitutional amendment approved by the Senate Thursday.
Some rural legislators including the measure's sponsor -- Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown -- have complained for several years that their areas had not been represented on the commission.
But during the Senate debate, the issue got support from a Kansas City area legislator -- Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City -- who argued his area also had not been adequately represented.
Critics, however, questioned the wisdom of tampering with a commission that has successfully managed a department responsible for the state's wildlife and conservation programs.
The constitutional amendment would require voter approval to take effect.
In addition to adding two more members to the Conversation Commission, the measure also would prohibit a member from serving two consecutive terms.
After completing a six year term, a commission member would not be allowed to return to the commission until after six years off the commission.
Missouri's governor and legislative leaders battled over transportation funding on the same day a gasoline tax increase was reported to the full Senate for debate.
On Thursday, Feb. 4, the Senate Appropriations Committee chair offered a plan to fund a Transportation Department with 641 critical-condition bridges through savings from welfare programs.
His plan would divert what Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia predicted would be savings from legislation passed last year that imposed various restrictions on welfare programs.
"Our state's transportation infrastructure is deteriorating and has become an impediment to our economic growth potential, our regional competitiveness, and our citizens' safety. We need to invest in improving our infrastructure while making sure our tax dollars are spent responsibly."
Schaefer's plan came under immediate attack from Gov. Jay Nixon.
"Trying to come up with some budget gimmick to take General Revenue and to slide some of that over to transportation is not a long-term transportation plan. They're clearly searching for excuses," Nixon in a video hookup from Peru to reporters attending a session of the Missouri Press Association and The Associated Press Day at the governor's mansion.
The new welfare-cut bill Schaefer cited as a source of extra funding for transportation imposes a shorter life-time limit on one welfare program -- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families -- and toughen the work requirements for the food-assistance program for lower income.
On the same day as the governor's news conference, a 1.5 cent per gallon gasoline tax was reported to the full Senate for debate.
A similar measure died in the legislature last year.
Missouri farmers would enjoy lawsuit protection under two bills heard by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Food Production, and Outdoor Resources on Wednesday, Feb. 3.
Senator Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, presented a bill that he is sponsoring that exempts those in compliance with state and federal permits from nuisance suits.
"Its a permit protection bill," Munzlinger said. "When you actually spend your money and take your time to get these permits you should be exempt from a nuisance suit."
Sharon Jones of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys said the bill could prevent neighbors from bringing damages to their property to court.
"A nuisance claim is a longstanding way for neighbors to resolve disputes about property usage," Jones said. "So one land owner whose use of their property is being impeded by a neighbor can go to the courts and have that dispute mediated by the court system and come to a resolution."
Senators urged their colleagues to vote for a bill that would change the way hospitals and health care facilities are obligated to report infections.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-Buchanan, would require more detailed reporting of infections that occur in hospitals.
Schaaf said infections acquired in hospitals are a leading cause of death in the United States.
"It's estimated that 100,000 people a year die of nosocomial infections or you know, health care acquired infections," he said.
Sen. Bob Onder voiced his support for Schaaf's bill.
He said he is very familiar with the issue of hospital acquired infections because his son nearly died from one.
"It's kind of, you know, it's funny. He had a severe congenital heart defect and despite all the good work of the surgeons and the nurses and the anesthesiologists taking care of him, one infection almost did him in," Onder said.
Schaaf said collecting more data will help find out the scope of the problem in Missouri, so hospitals could work to solve it.
The bill would require hospitals and health care centers to make their in-hospital infection data publicly available so that people could make educated decisions when choosing a health care facility.
Women would not have to get a doctor's prescription to obtain birth control pills under a bill presented to the House Emerging Issues Committee Wednesday, Feb. 3.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Sheila Solon, R-Jackson County, who described the bill as a pro-life advocate bill.
Solon said that women would benefit from the bill.
The measure would allow a pharmacist to dispense contraceptives without a medical doctors prescription.
Rep. Jack Bondon, R-Belton, had questions about the health of women if they are not seeing their doctor annually. He inquired about if a pharmacist is able to prescribe medications that alter specifically from woman to woman.
Conservative Sen. Will Kraus, R- Jackson County, drafted a bill that includes regulations on the use of simulator devices.
Currently, Missouri has no law restricting the devices. The American Civil Liberties Union reports police in 23 states, including Missouri have used cell site simulators in those states.
The bill would require warrants of probable cause to believe that criminal activity will be or has been committed, or if new evidence can be provided in an investigation.
Kraus said his bill will protect residents' U.S. constitutional Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Rep. Kurt Bahr, R- St. Charles, sponsors a bill requiring a property owners' association to cease mandating what signs can and cannot be displayed in a homeowners yard.
Bahr feels this is unconstitutional as it violates freedom of political speech. The Supreme Court ruled that cities may not dictate yard signs, but has no regulations regarding homeowners' associations ability to mandate yard signs.
Rep. Joshua Peters (D-St. Louis City) called university officials spending nights in expensive hotels using taxpayer money a "serious situation" at the House Higher Education Appropriations committee.
Peters said he could count of at least nine nights of university official stays in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel over the past few years.
He also said the university system has paid upward of $9,000 for a UM System curator's stay at the Four Seasons Hotel.
"This is serious dollars; these are serious funds," Peters said. "There are universities that are trying to do good deeds and can utilize these dollars instead of being spent at the Ritz-Carlton hotel."
University officials at the hearing said they would look into taxpayer funds being allocated for things such as this.
"I've never stayed at a Ritz-Carlton or Four Seasons, nor do I intend to, particularly on the state's dime," interim system president Mike Middleton said.
System officials also spoke about a potential enrollment drop at MU for the next academic year, which could result in a $20 million loss for the university.
They said they still do not know how severe the enrollment drop will be.
A Republican state representative called for the dismissal of a top Missouri health official for her responses to a legislative investigation into Planned Parenthood last year.
The call came under immediate attack from a senior House Democrat who charged "a witch hunt."
The call for the dismissal of Mental Health Department Counsel Gail Vasterling came from Rep. Mike Moon, R-Lawerence County.
His letter referred to Vasterling's responses to a legislative committee investigating Planned Parenthood when Vasterling was director of the state Health Department in which she deferred answers to others in the department including, Moon charged, the department's legal staff.
In response to Moon's letter, Rep Stacey Newman, D- St. Louis Country, issued a statement attacking Moon.
"I find this harassment and bullying of legislators at it's very best. Because the former director of the Dept. of Health and Senior Services could not legally answer questions posed to her by the House committee on their 'witch hunt' of Planned Parenthood, Rep. Moon wants her salary eliminated. Rep. Moon is continuing the agenda of Sen. Kurt Schaefer by insisting the budget process be held hostage because of an anti-abortion campaign agenda."
The committee heard three proposals that would require a threat of force by a suspect for a police officer to use lethal force.
The bills follow the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, that led to the riots in Ferguson.
There was no opposition to the bills. However, a similar bill did not pass last year.
Rural Missouri sheriffs are having trouble enforcing animal trespassing laws due to wandering dogs and cats.
Paul Lewis from the 16th region of the U.S. Canine Association brought to attention of the committee the laundry list of when animal killing is "okay" and requested clarification of the exact definitions of terms, such as "guard dog" and "law enforcement dogs."
A two-hour Senate filibuster blocked a vote on a measure to stop Missouri from backing stadium bonds without legislative or voter approval.
The bill comes after Missouri's governor said he could float bonds for a new NFL stadium in St. Louis without approval.
Bill sponsor Senator Rob Schaaf (R-Buchanan) said the legislature or voters ought to have a say whether the state will go into debt from these type of bonds.
Senator Joe Keaveny (D-St. Louis) has 14 amendments lined up to stop Schaaf's bill. He accused Schaaf of targeting the St. Louis area.
"My point is St. Louis is taking a hit for the last couple of years now, and we're still under attack with the earnings tax," Keaveny said. "You've done a very good job of discouraging the NFL to stay in St. Louis, I commend you for that."
Senator Scott Sifton (D-St. Louis County) was on the other side of this issue. Sifton said he believes his constituents would agree with the bill.
"The notion that a unilateral bond refinancing can be used to build a, I mean the better part of a billion dollar project without a vote of the people I think is something my constituents strongly disagree with, and I don't think they're alone," Sifton said.
Senator Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis) said she agrees with Schaaf, but that the bill is too narrow.
"I do believe that this specific piece of legislation is flawed and the reason that I say that is because you are, according to your bill it only applies to the St. Louis area and to one particular entity," Nasheed said.
No action was taken on the bill. The Senate will likely continue debate on the issue in session.
The House Emerging Issues committee heard favorable testimony from witnesses of all ages at the Monday hearing on HB 2058.
The bill, nicknamed the Cronkite New Voices Act, would restrict public school authorities from exercising prior restraint over school-sponsored student media that is not libelous, illegal or inciting a clear and present danger.
University of Missouri student journalist Tim Tai testified before the committee in support of the bill.
Tai appeared in a controversial video trying to photograph campus activists during protests on Carnahan Quad last year.
He said the bill is crucial to protecting the rights of student journalists in a day and age where they are often treated as "second-hand journalists."
"What better way for a student journalist to learn than when they are responsible for exercising their own editorial judgment, confronting ethical conflicts and taking responsibility for these decisions," Tai said. "I think you can't teach a student journalist to do journalism well if you dont allow them to practice it to its full extent."
Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis, questioned taking away high school administrations ability to approve which stories get printed.
He said printing controversial topics is more complicated when dealing with student journalists who still answer to their parents.
"If you support the first amendment, if you support the freedom of students to discuss those issues, but yet you want to be respectful to parents who are sensitive about those issues, how do you answer that question," Colona said.
Director of the Student Press Law Center Frank LoMonte, who testified on behalf of the bill, said parents should not be concerned with allowing their children to discuss hard issues in school publications.
"We know that censorship doesn't stop the discussion about that transgender student from taking place, it just relocates that discussion. It relocates it from the accountable, adult-supervised pages of student media to the unaccountable anthing-goes pages of Twitter," LoMonte said. "So where would you prefer that discussion take place? Would you prefer that it take place in an environment where students have to sign their real names, check their facts, correct their mistakes and answer to an adult educator, or would you prefer that it take place on Twitter, where none of those things happen."
LoMonte said giving local residents the option to accept or reject certain controversial issues does not work, especially in the case of free speech.
"We tried local option civil rights for the first two centuries of our country and that didn't work so good. Civil rights aren't to be given out by local option. There are just some things that are too important for that," he said.
Sponsor of the bill Rep. Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, said he had heard from many people who have experienced instances where censorship has occurred among student journalists in high schools.
"Primarily, in context of Hazelwood, its been so accepted as the law of the land that just nothing and no one has really challenged it. So I think this [bill] kind of sets a new a day in Missouri, a new tone for student journalists in my opinion," Haahr said.
Haahr said he expects the bill to come to a vote on Wednesday.
Missouri's Senate joined the House in voting to nullify a Tax Commission plan to increase assessment of some categories of farm land.
The Senate vote Thursday, Jan. 28, followed passage of the resolution in the House the previous week.
The Tax commission's plan would have raised the assessment values by five percent for the four of the highest grades of farm land.
The eight grades are based on the productivity of the land, as opposed to non-agriculture land which is assessed based on the land's value rather than productivity.
Under Missouri law, the Tax Commission sets the productivity assessment value every two years.
The assessment figures take effect unless rejected by the legislature.
The Tax Commission's rejected plan would have covered assessments for 2017 and 2018.
The senator who handled the resolution in the Senate -- Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar -- argued that decreasing farm size and the age of farmers, higher taxes will discourage the next generation of Missouri farmers.
"The average age of a farmer in the state of Missouri is 58 years old, which means it's very difficult if you're a young man or a young woman and you want to get into the business of agriculture, it's very difficult to do that, the investments you have to make," Parson said during the Senate debate.
Parson said it was unfair to single for a tax hike only the most productive land which he said represents about 35 percent of all of Missouri's agricultural land.
Critics, however, argued rejection of the assessment change would block additional funds for local public schools.
The state Senate continues to criticize how the University of Missouri has handled a communications professor who attempted to block the media from recording a protest.
Republican state legislators are not pleased with Melissa Click's continuing employment. Over 100 representatives and senators signed a letter asking the University of Missouri to fire her.
St. Louis County Democratic Senator, Maria Chapelle Nadal argued that the biggest issue facing the university is not Click, but rather the racial climate on the campus.
"What we really need to deal with is the history of prejudice and racial bias on the campus of Mizzou."
Yet Republican Senator Eric Schmitt, also from St. Louis County, said the issue is on the minds of Missourians.
"Because of that incident, a lot of people across the state, including taxpayers, have lost confidence in the leadership at the University of Missouri."
Melissa Click is currently going through the tenure process and will keep her job until that is finished and possibly longer, according to Interim Chancellor Hank Foley.
It would be tougher sue a farmer for cattle running loose under a measure heard by the House Civil and Criminal Proceedings Committee Wednesday, Jan. 27.
The measure would require that a farmer would have to have been negligent before being responsible for damages caused by trespassing livestock.
Currently, Missouri law states that livestock owners are strictly liable for any damages to another's property, even if the animals got out because of someone other than the owner, or because of a natural disaster, said the bill's sponsor -- Rep. Joe Don McGaugh, R-Carrollton.
"This is an issue that plagues our members quite frequently," Shannon Cooper from the Missouri Cattlemen's Association said. "This just updates the laws and tries to put the blame where it should be."
Rep. Bill White, R-Joplin, raised concerns about how property owners can collect damages if the livestock owner cannot be held liable without negligence.
"If you don't have an insurance scenario...you're going to go to court," White said.
He said this means innocent people in the situation would be forced to hire an attorney and incur court fees.
The debate over gay rights came before the Missouri Senate Progress Committee Wednesday, Jan. 27..
The bill would add sexual orientation and gender identity under the state's law that prohibits discrimination in various areas such as employment.
"The overall atmosphere regarding this bill nationwide, I believe has allowed us to get to a point where Missouri can take a step forward and accept this," said the bill's sponsor -- Sen. Mike Keaveny, D-St. Louis.
Keaveny chairs the Progress Committee -- the only Senate committee with a Democratic chair and a Democratic majority of committee members.
In addition to employment, the discrimination law also covers housing practices, various types of financial transactions and public accommodations.
More than 15 witnesses testified in support of the bill including representatives from the attorney general’s office, Planned Parenthood and members of PROMO, a Missouri organization focused on promoting LGBT equality.
"We know based on the study, but also based on calls that we receive at our office across the state, that people face discrimination in employment and housing and public accommodations," said PROMO Interim Executive Director Steph Perkins.
The study Perkins referred to was a 2013 study done by the Missouri Foundation for Health. The study found that one in seven LGBT Missourians had faced an adverse job reaction because they are gay or transgender.
Four people spoke in opposition of the bill, including general counsel for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, Brian Bunten.
"Until the discrimination standard is changed from the contributing standard, to the motivating standard, we cannot support any more protected classes to the list on the MHRA. That's our position," Bunten said.
Missouri's Supreme Court chief justice gave state lawmakers a report on changes made in Ferguson's court system following the protests in the summer of 2014.
"Let me be clear," Breckenridge said. "We are committed to ensuring every individual in every case in our system of justice is treated with respect and every case is adjudicated fairly and impartially under the law," Chief Justice Patricia Breckenridge said in her State of the Judiciary address to a joint session of the legislature on Wednesday, Jan. 27.
Breckenridge addressed the U.S. Department of Justice released a report that said there was racial disparity in the handling of cases in the St. Louis County juvenile division.
During her speech, Breckenridge addressed this report.
Breckenridge said the Judiciary is considering the Justice Department's criticisms and appropriate solutions.
During her speech, the Chief Justice emphasized that the Supreme Court is dedicated to restoring trust.
"The Supreme Court recognizes that the vast majority of our municipal divisions function as they should, but we are committed to restoring trust in all our municipal divisions and changes have been made," Breckenridge said.
She listed improved access to information and a uniform fine schedule as some of the changes the Supreme Court has made.
Other changes mentioned in the address included a Commission on Racial and Ethnic Fairness, established in October, and new implicit bias training as part of the judicial education programs.
Though these were all changes made by the Supreme Court, Breckenridge gives credit to the Legislature for their help in changing the court system.
"The legislature has taken action in response to the problems demonstrated by events in Ferguson, and I know you are considering additional changes to the law during this session," she said.
Breckenridge said the legislature and judiciary should continue to work together to improve Missouri's courts.
A legislative committee heard from St. Louis area homeowners about their concerns from a burning landfill next to radioactive waste.
Their testimony came before the Senate Commerce Committee hearing a bill that would establish a program to purchase their homes.
The measure addresses a continuing burning landfill in St. Louis County's Bridgeton adjacent to radioactive waste.
One witness testified about the affects of how her son has now accumulated asthma and severely swollen tonsils from being in the area. Another witness testified about growing up in the area and how she is disappointed that the area has been contaminated and that she can no longer live there.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency announced in December it would construct a barrier at the landfill to avoid future problems. After the most recent heavy rains, EPA reported it is unlikely that radioactive material had been "transported," but that it was continuing to monitor the situation.
Under the bill before the Senate committee, homeowners living within a three mile radius of Bridgeton Landfill, West Lake Landfill, or Coldwater Creek could apply to sell their home at the market rate to the state Natural Resources Department.
Legislative staff estimate the measure could cost the state more than $70 million in the first full year of implementation.
The House Health Insurance committee heard continuing arguments for and against the implementation of a system that would track the acquisition and purchase of prescription narcotics.
The program would give pharmacists and physicians the ability to access patient information that allows them to make informed decisions about drug dispersement and addiction intervention.
"Addiction is treated on the front end," said bill sponsor Holly Rheder, R-Sikeston, at the Wednesday, Jan 27, hearing. "You have less people who are getting that far down the line that they need to use heroin and they can't stop it."
A lobbyist for the drug-manufacturing company Mallinckrodt told the committee that those who use insurance plans to fill prescriptions already have their information stored in data bases that are more accessible than the system the bill would create.
"I started checking where my prescription drug list is stored and I came up with 7 locations where my entire prescription record is stored all in private data bases none of which are double encrypted," Randy Scherr said. "Of all of my records if this were put in place I would only have one script which would be placed on a doubly encrypted system in the state of Missouri."
Others in opposition argue that a prescription drug monitoring program would not be as effective as changes in physician practices.
"They mentioned the need for ending the over-prescribing of prescriptions," said Jeremy Cady with the Missouri Alliance for Freedom. "Why aren't some patients sent to physical therapy to give a permanent resolution to their pain rather than a continuous regime of addictive drugs?"
Missouri is the only state in the country that does not have a state prescription monitoring program. In past years, the measure has been derailed over arguments as to whether to give police access to the records without court warrants.
The measure heard by the House Health Committee would require a court order for police to access a person's prescription record in the database. Any subpoena, however, would have to be limited to a specific case.
Dr. Stacey Daniels-Young, the director of COMBAT Jackson County, an organization that provides drug rehabilitation, said a prescription drug monitoring program may prevent younger individuals from using drugs like heroin.
"It is well documented by our treatment agencies that opioid obtained by street sales are most more likely to lead to heroin," Daniels-Young said. "Since these people are so young they don't know about the 70s and they don't know what the drugs can do to you. Law enforcement officials corroborate the proliferation of these."
A coalition of Republicans and Democrats voted to send to the full Senate a bill to repeal the death penalty in Missouri.
The measure passed with support from two Republicans and two Democrats on the seven-member committee.
The measure now heads to the Senate that has not had debate on a death-penalty repeal bill in decades.
The bill's GOP sponsor -- Sen. Paul Wieland, R- Jefferson County -- described the future of his measure in terms of a discussion in the Republican-dominated Senate.
"The death penalty isn't going to change without discussion. It's important we keep discussion open and allow everyone to share their opinions in order to make a change," Wieland said.
In addition to Wieland, had the support of the committee's chair -- Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph. The committees other three Republicans voted against the bill. The two Democrats on the committee voted in support.
JEFFERSON CITY - A Senate committee heard a plea from a convicted felon to let her criminal record be expunged.
"We've paid our price, should we continue paying?" Patty Berger asked the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing testimony Tuesday, Jan. 26, on three bills that would make it easier to get criminal records deleted.
The committee heard testimony on three bills to lower the restrictions on getting criminal records deleted.
Berger, from St. Louis, said she had been sent to prison several times for 18 felonies during a 20-year period, but has since changed her life -- saying she has been drug and alcohol free for 15 year and now close to earning a college degree.
Berger told the committee a state agency should handle expungements for all courts instead of paying a repeated fee in each court.
Another witness was Jennifer Bukowsky from Columbia who owns Bukowsky Lawfirm and works with ex-felons hoping to get their record expunged. She said bills working toward expunging criminal records are important because she knows qualified individuals who are unable to work and support their families because of past mistakes.
Bukowsky said that many of these ex-felons are unable to buy concealed weapons, preventing them from being able to defend their families, which she feels is "un-American."
Nobody testified against the bills.
Maximum municipal court fines would be reduced and cities would face tighter restraints on use of court fine revenue under a measure given preliminary approval by the Senate Tuesday, Jan 29.
The measure would lower the maximum fine and court costs that can be assessed by a municipal court from $300 to $200.
The measure follows the law passed last year that restricts how much of a city's budget can be financed by minor traffic fines. The law sets the final phased in limit to 20 percent of the city's budget with a lower limit of 12.5 percent for cities in St. Louis County.
The bill approved by the Senate would extend those caps to all fines collected by a municipal court.
Under current law and under the bill, excess revenue from fines exceeding the limit is transferred to the state Revenue Department for distribution to schools in the city's county.
The bill's sponsor -- Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-St. Louis County -- charged cities had shifted to stronger enforcement of non-traffic ordinances in order to avoid any cuts in their budgets as a result of last year's law.
"We don't a city should rely on money by charging roving bureaucrats going around neighborhoods peaking into peoples' homes for mismatched blinds, mismatched curtains, chipped paint, citing people for having a barbecue in their front yard," Schmitt told the Senate.
But Sen. Jill Schupp, D-St. Louis County, argued that unlike traffic fines assessed against persons driving through a community, the other violations covered by the bill are paid by local residents.
"These people have some kind of recourse because they have elections in their community."
Schupp also questioned Schmitt's claims as to the frequency of the ordinance abuses that Schmitt claimed.
A lobbyist gift ban was discussed by the Missouri state House of Representatives, and was later amended to include local elected officials.
Another bill was passed by the house to treat executive appointees as public officials in regard to lobbyists' expenditure reports.
The bills are part of a major push by the house to clean up the ethics of the state legislature.
Rep. Justin Alferman (R-Gasconade) said that the ethics bills are needed for all Missouri public officials to keep the state honest,
"Because if we are going to be living under those standards, all elected officials ought to be living under those standards."
Just hours after MU Communications Professor Melissa Click was charged with assault against a student, Republican senators launched into a lengthy attack for inaction against the professor.
"We're the laughing stock of the country," Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, proclaimed during Monday's Senate session.
Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said the university's failure to take action against Click was a reason for the decline in student applications for admission this year.
"This is not complicated. It's as simple as this. A professor causes third degree assault and in the process invites a mob to come and help her with more muscle,"
Schaefer said to his colleagues.
Click's action came as a student was attempting to record video of protesters in November on the day the university system president resigned.
On Monday, Jan. 25, Columbia's prosecutor announced Click had been charged with third degree assault. The interim chancellor at MU, Hank Foley, told reporters Click would not be dismissed, as more than 100 legislators had demanded in a letter signed last month.
Instead, Foley said the process for evaluating tenure would continue.
If Click is not granted tenure this spring, she normally would be given a one-year terminal contract.
But that approach did not satisfy the Republican lawmakers, one of whom warned there could be consequences in the university's budget request that is before the legislature.
"I think they need to understand that the appropriations process is a very important accountability tool," said Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-St. Louis County.
Two black legislators -- Sen. Kiki Curls, D-Jackson County, and Sen. Maria Chappell-Nadal, D-St. Louis County -- said a more important issue was the frustration of the black student protesters who had complained of racial problems at the university campus.
Missouri governor's large mid-year budget increase request came under question from the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Acting Budget Director Dan Haug cited less funding from the tobacco settlement payments and higher pharmaceutical prices among the main causes for the large spending increase requests for the remainder of the current budget year that ends June 30.
Gov. Jay Nixon has asked the legislature for more than $270 million in state funds for Missouri's welfare budget during the remaining few months of the current budget year.
Committee Chair Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said the mid-year budget increase would allow the governor to hide larger increases in Medicaid spending in later years.
"What the governor does is, and he's done this every year too, is mask his growth of Medicaid in the supplemental," Schaefer said, "Then six months later they carry that [the mid-year budget increases] over that new budget recommendation for the next year."
Schaefer suggested the governor could have purposefully withheld the amount needed in the supplemental during the budget's initial appropriations process.
"You could say that you knew all along from the very beginning what the number was you just were never gonna offer it in the regular props (appropriations) process because there's too much public discussion over a four month period so you just pull some of it back, wait till there's a supplemental when nobody's really watching and we only spend a week on it," Schaefer said, "Then you basically grow Medicaid by an awful lot of money that way."
Other senators voiced similar concerns about large mid-year adjustments in the budget.
"Quite honestly, I think the goal for every one of us in this room is to have zero supplemental budget this year, not just kick the can down the road and just say this is the way we budget. I think we all need to work on that, and to make sure that that's put in next year's budget," said Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg.