JEFFERSON CITY - A Columbia representative's efforts to extend mandatory health-care coverage to developers who get tax breaks was rejected by a House-Senate conference committee Wednesday (Sept. 17).
The committee stripped from the final version of the economic development bill the health-care amendment sponsored by Rep. Tim Harlan, D-Columbia, that had been approved by the House Friday.
Meanwhile, the governor's effort to ressurect legislation on partial-birth abortion was declared dead by the Senate's top leader.
Senate President Pro Tem Bill McKenna, D-Jefferson County, said Wednesday that because he could not find sufficient votes to pass a ban on partial-birth abortion that the governor could sign, he would not allow the issue to be brought before the full Senate.
Failure to act on the bill could mean political trouble for three Democratic senators who face re-election next year. Sen. Mike Lyber, D-Huggins, Sen. Joe Maxwell, D-Mexico and Sen. Danny Staples D-Eminence all voted in favor of the partial birth abortion bill last spring, but switched their votes last week. All three are up for re-election in 1998.
"We have no consensus," McKenna said Thursday. McKenna said it would not be worth the extra cost of a longer special session to have lawmakers pass a bill that the governor would veto again.
Shortly after the Senate failed to override the veto last Wednesday, Gov. Mel Carnahan announced he would put the issue on the table for the special session.
Although vetoing the legislature's bill, Carnahan said he too opposed partial-birth abortions, but wanted included in any ban an exemption when the physican determines the procedure is necessary to protect the health of the mother.
Anti-abortion forces, who hold a majority in both the House and Senate, have refused to accept the governor's exemption.
McKenna said he won't keep the legislature in Jefferson City while the issue is argued again in committee hearings.
Despite McKenna's decision, which effectively blocks any progress on the abortion bill, the governor's office kept up its public pressure for legislative action.
"We still think it's possible to pass a bill that's constitutional and protect women's health, and we're going to continue to try and pass such a bill," said Chris Sifford, the governor's spokesman.
In additon, the governor's office released a letter criticizing the Senate sponsor of the partial-birth abortion bill, Sen. Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, for supporting a health-exemption in a 1996 Senate vote.
"Sentor Kinder, I am completely stunned by your lack of sincerity and opportunistic manipulation on this issue," the governor wrote in his letter to Kinder.
As McKenna told reporters about his decision to postpone the abortion debate until the regular session in January, a ten-member House-Senate conference committee continued deliberations on a package of business tax cuts for economic development.
McKenna said he hoped the Senate would be able to take up the measure this morning and adjourn the special session by the end of the day.
If approved by the Senate, the bill would face just one final round of votes in the House before going to the governor.
Wednesday night, conferees continued negotiating over language giving the legislature veto power over administrative rules.