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New and old issues for Missouri legislature's next session

December 01, 2003
By: Matthew Lunders
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Monday marked the beginning of Missouri's House and Senate prefiling bills for the January legislative session.

Issues lawmakers filed on the opening day ranged from taxes to gay marriages, from cloning to face veils and from repealing tax limits to freezing college tuition.

The legislative session will begin at noon January 7 and adjourn in mid-May, less than three months before the August primary.

Many bills are retreads of old issues while some new bills will be going to committee for the first time.

Bills thrown into the hopper on the first day for pre-filing included:

* The Senate minority floor leader -- Ken Jacob, D-Columbia -- filed a bill to repeal legislative term limits that were passed by Missouri voters in 1992. Under term limits, ten of the Senate's 34 members will serve their final year in 2004. Some of the Senate's most influential members will be forced out including the president pro tem, Appropriations Committee Chairman and Jabcob himself. Jacob's term-limits repeal proposal is offered as a constitutional amendment that would require statewide voter approval to take effect.

* Jacob also sponsored a bill to begin a revenue stabilization fund, which would cut reduce tax-limit refunds in future years. Instead of refunds, "Hancock Lid" excess revenue collections in years of high economic growth would be placed in a special fund for use during years of revenue shortfall.

"It's built on the theory that the economy is going to have ups and downs," Jacob said. "During up years, you need spending control. During down years, you want to have reserve."

* The Senate's Judiciary Committee Chairman -- Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Jackson County -- reintroduced a bill to prohibit human cloning. It would disallow use of any government facility, funds, or employees to be used in cloning. The bill did not prohibit research.

* Bartle also filed a bill to abolish the Highways Commission and turn the department over to a director who would be named by a governor.

* Sen. Harold Caskey, D-Butler, sponsored a bill to limit tuition increases for higher education. Under the bill, a student would pay the same tuition costs every year of undergraduate study, even if the school raised costs for incoming students.

* Sen. Sarah Steelman, R-Rolla, sponsored a bill that would not recognize same-sex marriages within the state of Missouri.

* Sen. Maida Coleman, D-St. Louis, and Rep. Mike Sutherland, R-Warrenton, sponsored a joint bill to increase expectations of landlords in mobile home parks. Main focuses of the bill were requiring higher safety standards and earlier notices for rent increase or eviction.

Sutherland said the bill would protect mobile home owners so they "will not be left vulnerable to a situation they cannot control."

* Sen. Jim Mathewson, D-Sedalia, filed the governor's plan to raise taxes on gambling and repeal the limit of losses by gamblers. Another lawmaker filed a tobacco increase proposal similar to the governor's proposal of last session.

* A person would be required to show his or her entire face, not covered as with a veil, for a driver's license photograph under a measure filed in the Senate.

* As lawmakers face the summer and fall political campaigns, Rep. Bob Johnson, R-Jackson County, proposed doubling the limit on campaign contributions.

* Finally, there's a plan filed in the Senate to cut the pay of Missouri's 197 legislators by three percent.