JEFFERSON CITY - The Senate sponsor of legislation to allocate tobacco settlement money dropped his measure after the chamber tacked on a ban on using the money for abortion or abortional referrals.
The sponsor complained the proposal, which would require voter approval as a constitutional amendment, would turn the issue into an abortion campaign rather than tobacco.
Some of amendment's supporters acknowledged they were trying to force Gov. Mel Carnahan to the negotiating table on the abortion issue.
Within hours of the Senate's action, Carnahan did offer a compromise -- that he would sign companion legislation banning the money from going for abortions.
"This compromise should resolve the abortion issue so we can focus on the remaining issues," the governor said.
But Carnahan's offer was rejected immediately by anti-abortion leaders who said it did not prohibit the money from going to groups like Planned Parenthood.
At issue is a bill to create a trust fund where the tobacco money would be held before it is spent.
The conflict threatens to derail any decision of what to do with the pending tobacco money before the crucial 2000 elections. At the beginning of the session, Carnahan, who is running for the U.S. Senate against John Ashcroft, made spending the money on health projects one of his major priorities. If the plan is derailed, Carnahan will be deprived of an issue to trumpet in the campaign.
In an afternoon news conference, Carnahan voiced anger at the Senate action.
"If we want to be a state that continuously litigates over abortions, let's get with it," but if we want good policy, let's do that, he said.
He was referring to the on-going court battle between anti-abortion lawmakers and Planned Parenthood over whether state funds to the group indirectly fund abortions.
Anti-abortion lobbyists and legislators derided the governor's attempt at compromise.
The tabled bill is a proposed constitutional amendment that will let the voters decide if the money should be spent on health care.
In other legislative action Wednesday:
The proposal would establish state no-call list for telemarketers composed of Missourians who have place their home numbers on the list.
The proposal, which must still aquire final approval of the Senate before being sent to the governor, allows up to a $5,000 civil penalty for any telemarketer that knowingly calls anyone on the no-call list. Anyone who receives more than one call from the same firm after being placed on the list can seek up to $5,000 for each violating call.
The bill was passed unanimously, 118-0. The only critics were concerned the bill would rob small businesses of important ways to make sales. But the bill's sponsor rejected that claim.
"The question is, "when does my telephone become an extension of your business?" said Rep. Don Kissel, D-St. Peters.
Nonetheless, the critics succeeded in adding language exempting from the penalties businesses that make fewer than 100 such calls per week.
The measure, if passed in its current form, would not take effect until July 2001. By January of that year, the Attorney General must have established the no-cost method for citizens to join the list.
Currently, citizens can avoid getting the calls by telling each telemarketer to place them on their no-call list. This bill seeks to fuse all the separate lists into one huge database.
The proposal also bans telemarketers from using technology that blocks Caller-ID components on phones. It also requires any e-mailed marketing messages to include either return e-mail addresses or an 800 number that citizens can use to tell the company to stop sending the messages.
The exemption has been endorsed by the Missouri Prosecuting Attorney's Assocation.
Also added to the bill is a provision called "Jake's Law," named after Jake Robel the Kansas City child dragged to death during a 1999 car-jacking.
The car-jacker was released from jail earlier that day despite having several outstanding arrest warrants. No warrant check was performed or required.
The new language requires warrant checks on all prisoners before they are released.