JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Bob Holden received a stripped down version of his "Jobs Now" initiative Thursday afternoon after the measure was approved unanimously by the General Assembly.
"This truly starts redefining economic development in the state of Missouri in the years to come," Holden said.
The approved version of the bill lacks the $150 million in bonds that Holden requested to fund infrastructure projects. The original plan intended to repay the bonds' debt with funds generated from repealing certain tax credit programs.
The bill will now use the money from those programs to offer no more than $12 million in loans and grants to local governments for public works improvements.
Rep. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, who handled the bill in the House, applauded the governor's willingness to compromise.
"I gave credit to the governor for offering to eliminate three credits and really help foster discussion on and looking at other ways this week to take our existing dollars and do a better job creating jobs," Dempsey said.
In addition to funds for infrastructure improvements, the bill provides incentives for training current employees on technological advances. An expanded "enterprise zone" program will also allow local governments to grant businesses tax breaks for locating in areas considered more impoverished than other parts of the state.
"The bill that we put forward gives us more tools at the local level, gives us greater flexibility," Dempsey said. "I think we'll be more responsive and can react faster when we have opportunities to bring companies and good-paying jobs to Missouri and with the job training for retention, it helps us with existing companies as well."
As of Thursday evening, other legislative action included:
-The legislature sent the governor a bill that would require insurance companies to cover mental, in addition to physical, health conditions. Although previous versions of the bill included coverage for drug and alcohol dependency treatment, those portions were removed from the version passed Thursday.
"This is one of the last vestiges of ignorance," said Sen. Chuck Gross, R-St. Charles County, as many senators voiced relief that a compromise on the issue had finally been reached. The bill passed the Senate, 31-0, and the House, 112-14. The governor lobbied in support of the measure Thursday.
-A bill passed by the Senate would revise the sunshine law. The bill is a compromise between previous House and Senate versions. The compromise version requires only members who are physically present be allowed to vote in roll call votes at public meetings. The current version makes individuals and agencies liable for knowingly violating the sunshine law, as opposed to negligibly violating the law, which some previous versions had pushed. The bill passed the Senate, 31-0, and must get House approval before going to the governor.