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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of April 18, 2016

A resolution to the confrontation between Planned Parenthood and the Missouri Senate over subpoenaed documents was announced Thursday, April 21.

St. Louis Planned Parenthood agreed to allow access to some documents relating to disposal of aborted fetuses demanded in a Senate subpoena issued last fall, but not documents that would identify patients.

In response, Senate leaders cancelled an April 25 full-Senate hearing in which the St. Louis Planned Parenthood president had been ordered to appear to explain the organization's refusal to comply with the subpoena.

A few days before the compromise was reached, St. Louis Planned Parenthood had demanded that the former Senate President Pro Tem who had issued the subpoena -- Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles -- also appear before the full Senate hearing to explain the purpose of the subpoena.

Under the agreement, the Planned Parenthood documents can be examined at the Jefferson City law office of St. Louis Planned Parenthood's attorney  by representatives of the Senate within 60 days of the agreement.

The agreement between the general counsel for the Senate's president pro tem, Todd Scott, and St. Louis Planned Parenthood's attorney, Chuck Hatfield, prohibits copying of the documents.

Hatfield said the agreement does not include documents that would identify Planned Parenthood patients or physicians.

In return, Scott wrote that Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard would suspend the demand for a Senate appearance of St. Louis Planned Parenthood's president.

Planned Parenthood will be cut off from state family planning funds under the 2017 fiscal year budget passed by Missouri lawmakers Thursday, April 21.

It represented one of the few contentious issues during legislative debate.

"I'm going to vote no on this bill because I believe it is irresponsible for us to reduce access to women's health care, to reduce access to reproductive contraception," said Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City.

"We are potentially increasing the number of abortions that happen through this reduction of funding for contraception and I don't that's a pro-life position at all," Holsman said.

But Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said there were more than 500 rural health clinics and county health departments that provide health services for women.

"There is not a single Planned Parenthood in this state that provides cancer detection, that provides mammograms, yet there are over 580 FQHCs, rural health clinics and county health departments that provide those services," Schaefer said. "So we did remove that funding for 13 Planned Parenthood [clinics]. That money is available for over 580 facilities across this state."

For years, Republicans have objected to family planning money going to Planned Parenthood. They argued it was supporting an organization that made referrals for abortion and operated clinics where abortions were performed.

The budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 provides $10.79 million for family planning and various women's health services including pregnancy testing and pelvic exams.

That budget section, however, prohibits any of the funds going to "an organization that provides abortion services."

The other major contention involved funding for primary and secondary education.

For yet another year, the budget fails to meet the legal goal for appropriations in the School Foundation Program that allocates funds to local schools.

"I am disappointed that legislators provided less funding for our K-12 classrooms than I recommended," Gov. Jay Nixon was quoted as saying in a brief statement issued shortly after legislative passage of the spending plan.

In presenting the budget to the Senate, Schaefer acknowledged state funding to public schools would fall $490 million below the "full-funding" goal.

Although the funding goal was passed into law by Missouri lawmakers in 2005, there is no provision to force the legislature to meet the goal.

In total, state dollars for education would increase 3.0 percent. The total state General Revenue budget would grow by 7.6 percent.

Legislative leaders have blamed the inability to provide a larger increase to education on the large spending increase demands for Medicaid that provides health care coverage for the lower income.

Because Medicaid is an "entitlement program," state government cannot cut payments of benefits established in law for eligible Medicaid recipients.

As part of their budget actions, lawmakers had to pass a supplemental appropriations of $458 million additional funds for Medicaid beyond what lawmakers had approved last year for the current budget year that concludes June 30.

The budget bills now go to the governor.

Once again, chair of the House Emerging Issues Committee put off a vote on contentious religious liberties measure, SJR 39.

The resolution is a proposed constitutional amendment to give protections to wedding businesses and religious organizations who deny service to same-sex couples because of a religious objection to same-sex marriage. If passed by the House, the measure would be put on the ballot for a vote of the people.

Rep. Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, said the committee would not be taking a vote on the resolution until next week.

Haahr said that, while he would vote in favor of the Senate-passed proposal, several other committee members need time to consider the testimony given on the measure.

The resolution sparked a 3-day Senate filibuster by Senate Democrats in March.

Proponents said the amendment would protect the religious freedoms of Missourians.

Opponents argue it would write discrimination into the Missouri Constitution.

Policy director for ACLU Missouri, Sarah Rossi, led a rally in protest of SJR 39, and urged those who attended to put pressure on lawmakers to stop the resolution in its tracks.

"And if there's one thing I've heard in this building over and over again, it's that the government should not be interfering in private family decisions, and that is exactly what this is," Rossi said. "It is interfering in the lives of lesbian and gay couples across the state of Missouri, and it is the only group, only group, that this legislature is talking about doing that to. It's time it stopped."

Haahr said the vote on SJR 39 could come as early as Monday.

Missouri Representatives gave first-round approval Wednesday, April 20, to a bill that would promise a speedy disposition to animal owners accused of abuse or neglect.

Currently, a court is only required to give a disposition hearing within 30 days of its initial filing. The change in the bill would require a hearing be given within 10 days, so that owners are not under an unnecessary legal burden.

Bill sponsor, Rep. Sonya Anderson, R-Springfield, argues that under the current process, owners are losing their animals due to the inability to pay bond or the costs that come along with the legal challenge.

Anderson said decreasing the time period before a hearing would help save money and make the process more fair for animal owners.

Rep. Jacob Hummel, D-St. Louis City, voiced concerns concerns that the change would not provide enough time for testing to be done in order to verify the reason for the animal's undernourishment.

Hummel said tests done by the University of Missouri on animals' blood for different diseases take longer than the time allotted in the bill, and the owners could possibly be charged for mistreatment without knowing all the facts.

Rep. John McCaherty, R-St. Louis County, said the bill is too concerned with the agricultural side of things. He said in his area, as in other parts of the state, it is puppy mills, rather than sick cows that he sees.

Another point of contention in the bill was the language that takes away the ability of public health officials to discern, confiscate or temporarily take care of malnourished animals.

Rep. Deb Lavender, D-St. Louis County, said this change could put the burden of finding and penalizing those who abuse their animals on the police force, that has more important things to worry about.

The measure also would restrict when an impounded animal could be euthanized or sterilized.

Missouri is the only state without a prescription drug monitoring program. and on Wednesday, April 20, the Senate Public Safety Committee heard two bills that would implement different kinds of programs in the state.

The House version of the bill would establish a statewide drug monitoring program that could be accessed by pharmacists and physicians

The bill sponsor -- Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston -- said the House version of the bill allows physicians to work with one another to provide preventative care for their patients.

"That's how we want addiction treated, we want it to be done by our medical professionals on the front end," Rehder said. "This bill allows that because it's your medical professionals that get to see that and make those determinations."

But since the prescription monitoring idea has come before the legislature, it's been blocked by one of few medical physicians in the General assembly.

Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, has voiced concerns about doctor-patient confidentiality for prescriptions.

Schaaf sponsored the Senate version of the bill which puts greater restrictions on who can access the information stored in the prescription drug monitoring program.  

Under the Senate bill, the Health Department, rather than physicians, would be primarily responsible for flagging those who are potentially abusing opioid drugs.

Schaaf said his bill provides stronger measures to protect the liberty of Missourians.

"It is wrong to take away the liberty of every law abiding citizen to stop a very few from breaking the law," Schaaf said. "Especially when they are putting their own lives at risk by doing so."

But Cindy O'Neill of St. Louis County, whose husband killed himself after being prescribed interacting medications by multiple doctors, said individual freedom should come second to life.

"There is no privacy if a person is dead," O'Neill said. "I would give my privacy if I had my husband back."

O'Neill said her husband might still be alive if his multiple physicians had been able to access information about the other medications he was being prescribed.

The House version of the bill would allow for such access.

The committee did not take an immediate vote on either bill.

Missouri is the only state without any statewide database of prescriptions.

Marijuana would be allowed to be prescribed for some terminally ill patients under a measure measure initially approved by Missouri's House, but defeated the next day.

The measure would authorize the purchase and use of marijuana by a hospice care patient who has a terminal cancer diagnosis. It would be subject to statewide voter approval to take effect.

The bill's sponsor -- Rep. Dave Hinson, R- St. Clair -- told the House about his father's refusal to accept medical marijuana as he battled bone cancer.

Hinson's father was treated at a Veteran's Administration hospital, a facility which is licensed to provide patients in need with medical marijuana.

"In this state they can do it, he denied it," Hinson said in regards to his father's refusal for medical marijuana. "You know why? [Be]cause it's against the law in this state."

On the other side, Rep. Tila Hubrecht, R-Dexter, said that as a hospice nurse she is uncomfortable will the bill.

The measure won preliminary approval on Wednesday, April 20, by voice.

But the next day on a required roll-call vote, the proposal was defeated 66-87 as opponents continued their arguments against the idea including opposition from one of the legislature's licensed physicians.

House defeat came as supporters of a broader medical marijuana proposal continue to seek signatures to place their measure on the August or November ballot.

The ballot proposal would authorize marijuana for a variety of medical aliments, including non-terminal conditions such as glaucoma and neurological conditions. It would not require the person be a hospice care patient.

The Missouri House voted to cut the legislature's goal for education funding.

The current goal for funding local public schools was created in 2005 to make them more equal, regardless of local tax revenue.

It has been underfunded by $656 million, leaving each student in the state $700 short of funding on average, according to the Missouri Budget Project.

The House vote came just days after Gov. Jay Nixon attacked the plan for forcing localities to spend more on education.

"With our economy moving forward and revenues up, now is not the time to back up on our commitment to fully funding our public schools," Nixon said in a press release.

Supporters of the bill said the formula must be more efficient to be successful.

"Go back to your superintendent," said Rep. Mike Lair, R-Chillicothe. "Ask him, 'if it's fully funded will you not ask for another nickel? Believe me, you'll get a good chuckle out of it."

Opponents said the measure will hurt students, with politicians moving the yardstick in an election year.

"You want to say that you fully funded the formula, and you want that to be a good talking point for the next two years, when you know it's going to hurt your district in the next ten," said Rep. Michael Butler, D-St. Louis City.

The goal was fully funded from its creation until the Great Recession forced it to be lowered in 2010.

Thirty-five percent of Missouri's budget goes to K-12 education, according to the Missouri Budget Project.

The handler of the bill, Rep. David Wood, R-Versailles, said the current goal is impossible to match.

"There is no way that we can keep up with this growth," said Wood. "We have to have the cap."

The bill passed the House, 116-38. It will go next to the governor's desk.

St. Louis Planned Parenthood has asked the Senate to summon the former Senate President Pro Tem who issued the original subpoena demanding documents from the organization concerning abortions.

The organization submitted a letter to Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, on April 15th asking Richard to issue a subpoena for Tom Dempsey.

In November, the then Senate President Pro Tem -- Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles -- issued the subpoena demanding documents from Planned Parenthood on disposal of fetal tissue and created the Sanctity of Life committee to investigate the organization. 

"We want him to talk with the Senate about how it was created and what its goals were so that the Senate can consider whether the subpoena that was issued was too broad and to invasive of privacy to meet the legitimate goals of a legislative investigation," said St. Louis Planned Parenthood's attorney, Chuck Hatfield.

Hatfield said Planned Parenthood also wants Dempsey to face questions on the creation of the Sanctity of Life committee.

"The full Senate has never voted to establish the Sanctity of Life committee," Hatfield said. "We would need Senator Dempsey to confirm that this committee was never voted on, its mission was never set out by the full Senate. It was just sort of created in response to some public incidents."

He said Planned Parenthood may need to get the court involved if the Senate denies their subpoena request.

The current Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, said he had been advised against issuing a subpoena against his predecessor.

"You know I hadn't been advised by our Senate Attorney to do that yet," Richard said. "I don't really think it's necessary with Todd Scott our Senate attorney believes that there may be something in the works that may not get to that point. But I had not been advised to do that."

Hatfield said he cannot comment on any agreements that may be in the works.


A House committee heard a bill on Tuesday, April 19th that would prohibit transporting a minor across state lines for an abortion.

The bill's sponsor, Representative Tom Hurst, R-Meta, said the bill came about when the Hurst received a call last year from a parent who was outside an abortion clinic in Illinois.

"It was a young woman," Hurst said. "A lady and her boyfriend. She got pregnant. The boyfriend's mother took the child across state lines, to Illinois, to get an abortion. The mother was notified but did not give her consent and therefore could not be with her daughter during the procedure."

Hurst said it is not his attempt to make people felons, but to open the conversation. Anyone under the age of 18 is considered a minor in Missouri.

Right to Life Missouri, Campaign Life of Missouri and Missouri Family Network all testified in favor of the bill.

"This is a long standing problem in Missouri," Sam Lee with Campaign Life said.

Currently in Missouri a minor needs a parent's permission in order to obtain an abortion.

Sarah Rossi from the American Civil Liberties Union testified against the bill.

"Minor girls have the same rights as adult women when it comes to accessing reproductive health care," Rossi said. 

University of Missouri lobbyist Marty Oetting spoke in support of a resolution to create a commission to review the UM System.

"We're always open to good ideas; I think the board is open to that," Oetting said.

The House Committee on Government Oversight and Accountability heard the resolution on Monday from Rep. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia.

The resolution would create the University of Missouri System Review Commission, which would review the UM System and recommend changes.

The action taken by the UM System regarding these recommended changes would then be considered by the General Assembly when they decide how much money to give to the system.

Oetting said the university would not be opposed to hearing suggestions the possible commission could have.

"So whether it's this commission or any other group that comes forward with recommendations or observations of what happened last year and how the university could handle it better, I think they're open to those suggestions," Oetting said.

While the university spoke in support of the resolution, committee members from both parties expressed concern with it.

Rep. Tom Hurst, R-Meta, said he is worried the commission would not inspire any change.

"When the Board of Curators basically sat back on their hands and let it happen, now what we wanna do is appoint another commission," Hurst said. "Do they have any teeth or can they go in there and say 'straighten up'? People are tired of it. I went to the University of Missouri. I saw things happen when I was there, they haven't gotten better."

Hurst said that if the commission didn't spark any action, the blame could land on the legislature.

"I'm not against your idea," Hurst said. "The fact that it costs them money to do it, I have a little qualms with. The fact that whether or not it does anything, I also have qualms with. Is it just going to be another committee that if something does happen they say, 'well you're the one that set up the committee to oversee it.' So not only then do they not take the blame, they force it on us."

Some Democratic committee members were concerned that the resolution did not have specific criteria for the appointment of commission members.

"I don't see anything in here that requires any sort of diversity, any number of women, any number of persons of color," said Rep. Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis County.

The resolution states the commission will contain eight members, four appointed by the Speaker of the House and four appointed by the President Pro Tem.

"I think the idea was to bring broader, additional perspectives to the table to help this be as effective and productive as it can be," Rowden said.

Rep. Courtney Curtis, D-St. Louis County, wanted to know whether recommended changes would actually be made.

"What is the likelihood that these recommendations that are compiled will actually be adhered to and implemented in a swift manner as opposed to not?" Curtis asked.

"I think the board and the University is going to have an interest in what this group comes forward with," Oetting said. "I think the ideas that have merit and they think would be helpful to the university given what we went through last year I think they'll look at those very quickly."

No one testified in opposition of the resolution at the hearing.

Last Week

Statewide elected officials and legislators will be prohibited from working as paid political consultants under a measure signed into law by Gov. Jay Nixon.

The law will take effect Aug. 28. It was prompted by the actions of a former House speaker, Rod Jetton, who was paid to be a political consultant for several legislators whose bills could be effected by Jetton's actions as speaker.

"Banning office holders from paying each other for political advice is an important step in the right direction," Nixon said in a statement to reporters just before signing the bill on Thursday, April 14.

"Members of the General Assembly are here to represent their taxpaying constituents, not cash in on their political connections."

But Nixon called on legislators to pass other measures designed to reduce the influence of special interests in the governmental process.

"There is more work to do, and I have been very clear about the measures that are necessary to restore the public's trust," Nixon said.

On the same day as Nixon's action, the House passed the final House-Senate conference committee compromise on a measure to prohibit a legislator or statewide elected official from immediately becoming a lobbyist after leaving office.

The proposal would require a six-month "cooling off" period after the term of office had expired before an elected state official could register as a Missouri lobbyist.

The proposal represents a compromise between the House, which passed a one-year delay, and the Senate, which voted against any delay to become a lobbyist after expiration of the office term.

The proposal awaits Senate approval to head to Nixon's desk.

Two of the other issues Nixon has pushed under the ethics umbrella have languished in the legislature.

A ban on lobbyist gifts to government officials cleared the House. But opposition in the Senate stalled action in that chamber, which has not brought the measure back up for debate since Feb. 23.

Nixon's call to shorten the length of legislative sessions, a bit longer than four months, has failed to win committee approval in either the House or Senate.

By a straight party-line vote, Missouri's Senate approved a resolution that summons the president of St. Louis Planned Parenthood to appear before the Senate to explain why the organization has failed to comply with a Senate subpoena issued last fall.

The resolution, adopted Thursday, April 14, calls upon Mary Kogut to appear before the Senate at 2 p.m. on April 25.

A similar resolution also summons for the April 25 hearing the owner of the pathology lab used by Planned Parenthood -- St. Louis Pathology Services, Inc.

Last fall's subpoena demanded six years of documents concerning the handling of aborted fetal tissue.

The resolutions are sponsored by the chair of an interim committee established after release of edited video which abortion opponents have described as showing a national Planned Parenthood officer discussing the sale of aborted fetal tissue.

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said the appearance summons simply was an opportunity for Planned Parenthood to explain why it refused to comply with the subpoena.

Planned Parenthood's attorney, Chuck Hatfield, said the documents subpoenaed would include personally-identifiable information of patients.

Planned Parenthood did not immediately indicate whether it would comply with the summons, but Hatfield criticized the entire process.

"Planned Parenthood has not been treated fairly in this whole process," Hatfield said. "I believe that the Senate has completely prejudged this issue and so, in my view, there's very little reason just so that they can create a show."

But some senators argued there was a basic governmental issue involved with Planned Parenthood's refusal to obey the subpoena.

"You can not have a Constitution that innumerates powers, with checks and balances and separation of power, and then just ignore it because you don't like the politics," said Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City. "To just thumb your nose at it is completely unacceptable."

Missouri law provides a penalty of ten days in a county jail and a $300 fine for violating a legislative subpoena.

But Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, said there were discussions underway between Planned Parenthood's attorney and and Senate staff to work out a compromise.

"I'm not prepared to put someone in jail at this point, no," Richard said.

It would be a felony crime to sell or donate an aborted fetus under a measure approved by Missouri's House Thursday, April 14.

The bill provides a few exemptions to the ban such as determining paternity or any genetic disease.

The measure, approved 120-34, also imposes additional requirements to track transfer of aborted fetal tissue to a pathology lab and adds requirements for the lab report including an estimated age of the fetus.

In addition, the bill would provide job protection for an abortion clinic employee who reported a law violation or mismanagement at the facility.

Supporters argued abortion clinics should be held to hospital standards to protect women, and fetal tissue should not be used for medical purposes.

"It is giving voice to the voiceless, it is defending the defenseless," said Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City. "Children should not be science experiments."

Opponents said the bill is taking away women's access to necessary health care.

"Fetal tissue saves lives and advances medicine," said Rep. Judy Morgan, D-Jackson County. "It's a legal and ethical practice that has led to medical advances for decades, including the polio vaccine."

The measure now goes to the Senate.

A loaded firearm could be carried into a meeting of a Missouri legislative committee under a provision given overwhelming approval by the Missouri House Wednesday, April 13.

The provision was offered as an amendment to a bill dealing with where a person with a concealed weapons permit could carry a firearm.

During the House debate, an amendment was offered to make it a crime to carry firearms into any governmental meeting.

But Rep. Deb Lavender, D-St. Louis County, offered an amendment to the amendment that would exclude committee meetings of the state legislature from the prohibition.

It was offered as a tactic to highlight opposition to the bill, but when Lavender reached the time limit for speaking on her amendment, the presiding officer promptly called for a vote before Lavender could withdraw her amendment.

It passed 116-35.

Some legislators praised the amendment.

Rep. Shawn Rhoads, R-West Plains, said Missourians should be able to carry firearms into the state Capitol because of their Second Amendment rights.

"I think you know what this is the people's building and their Second Amendment rights were trying to protect them," Rhoads said. "I whole-heartedly support her amendment and I hope the body does so as well."

On the other side, Rep. Genise Montecillo, D-St. Louis County, said that this provision is threat to the safety of the legislators and to those who visit the Capitol. 

"And not only are we sitting ducks, but we are putting the people who come and visit their Capitol at risk and it will futher this risk by this lady's amendment," Montecillo said. "I think to put more people at risk, just to make a point is dangerous and it's fool-heartedy and I know I will not be supporting this amendment."

Further House action on the bill was suspended after adoption of Lavender's amendment.

An extended Senate Democratic debate delayed a vote on legislation that would summon the president and CEO of the St. Louis and Southern Missouri Planned Parenthood to the body.

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, attempted to have the body adopt the resolution.

After almost an hour-long filibuster by Democrats, Schaefer withdrew his motion to adopt the resolution.

In November of 2015, the Senate Interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life issued President Mary Kogut a subpoena in their investigation of the organization.

The organization claimed the information the committee required them to submit was too broad, and that they would not be able to provide the documents.

Schaefer held the position of chair of the interim committee at the time. He is now sponsoring a resolution to summon Kogut to the Senate.

Sen. Ryan Silvey (R-Kansas City) spoke in favor of Schaefer's resolution. He said Planned Parenthood should not be able to evade Missouri law.

"You can not have a constitution the innumerates powers, with checks and balances and separation of power, and then just ignore it because you don't like the politics," Silvey said.

Silvey said that, if the judicial branch had issued a subpoena, there would have been a very different response from the organization.

"To me this is a process issue. The Constitution has granted an authority, we are equal with the judicial branch, it is a similar process and to just thumb your nose at it is completely unacceptable and we can not set the precedent moving forward," Silvey said. "We are in uncharted territory because nobody has ever just ignored it."

Democrats argued that the Senate rules do not allow the body to issue a subpoena to a private organization.

Sen. Jill Schupp, D-St. Louis County, questioned the legality of the Interim Committee on the Sanctity of Life, of which she was a member.

"It made me go to the rule, rule 31 in our book of rules of the Missouri Senate, and all of a sudden it's given me pause about whether even creating an interim committee that is not part of what was a standing committee in the first place, is even within the power and purview of the Senate," Schupp said.

Schupp later said that even if the committee were deemed legal, the chair of the committee acted alone in creating this resolution to summon Kogut.

"I'm not sure what this witch hunt by the Senator from Boone, working with the President Pro Tem, in order to say months later in the month of March, after the interim committee was not even working any more," Schupp said. "Whether or not it was put together legally or in compliant with our senate rules, it was certainly ended by the end of December, and yet that committee chair, under the guise of being the chair for the committee but acting on his own, is then in March responding to this document that was provided to him on December 4."

Sen. Scott Sifton, D-St. Louis County, said that there was not committee vote to issue a subpoena.

"I'm not even sure it's accurate to say the committee," Sifton said. "It was issued pursuant to the auspices of the committee but there was no committee vote held on it."

He said the situation is not a common one for the Senate to be in.

"Two things that are somewhat unique about this particular subpoena, one it was issued to a private entity, two it was issued during the legislative interim when the Senate wasn't even in session," Sifton said. "That's unusual, maybe even unprecedented."

The House heard a bill that will require the board of education in school districts to establish a guidance counseling program that is in the best interest of the students on Wednesday, April 13.

As the bill was being discussed, Rep. Jay Houghton, R- Martinsburg, proposed an amendment regarding school start dates that shifted the focus of the discussion.

"This amendment would help the number one and number two industries in the state of Missouri and believe it or not, like it or not, agriculture is part of our education program," Houghton said.

A House Emerging Issues Committee hearing on legislation to allow refusal to provide services for gay marriages ran into the late evening hours Tuesday, April 12.

The proposed constitutional amendment would prohibit government from imposing any penalty on an organization or person who refused to sell products or services for a same-sex marriage if it violated religious beliefs.

The amendment, approved by the Senate in early March, would require statewide voter approval to take effect.

The Senate made national news for a 39-hour Democratic filibuster against the measure that ended only after the Senate vote to shut off debate.

Business organizations and Gov. Jay Nixon have warned adoption of the measure could hurt the state's economy from boycotts if the provision became a part of the state Constitution.

“I’m not buying this fight,” countered Rep. Ron Hicks, R-St. Peters. “I can’t make you shop anywhere, you have the right to do that.”

The measure's sponsor -- Sen. Bob Onder, R-St. Charles County -- said that the evidence for the idea that the amendment would hurt the state's economy is weak.

Before the hearing began, Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis City, issued a statement against the amendment writing, "at its core, SJR 39 seeks to create a constitutional right to be mean to certain people based on who they love," he said in the statement. "Freedom of religion must be respected and accommodated, but it cannot be used as an excuse to deny others the right to be treated with basic human dignity."

Onder disagreed in an opening statement to the committee. “It is a shield, not a sword,” said Onder.

“Please don’t take my reaction the wrong way…as the only gay guy here I get a little emotional,” Colona said during the hearing.

Supporters of the bill who testified before the committee include the Missouri Baptist Convention, Lt. Governor Peter Kinder, Missouri Alliance for Freedom, Missouri Farm Bureau, and Lee’s Summit Community Church.

“Please let the people vote,” said Mike Whitehead, general counsel for Missouri Baptist Convention.

The committee did not take an immediate vote on the measure.

Top St. Louis County elections officials explained to a legislative committee why a ballot snafu prevented many potential voters from casting ballots during the April 5 local elections.

On Wednesday April 13, the two officials responsible for the missing ballots were called before the House special committee on Urban Issues to explain the mistake that some committee members said disenfranchised voters.

Eric Fey, a director of the St. Louis County Board of Elections, told the House Urban Issues Committee Wednesday, April 13, that the ballot shortage occurred as a result of staff failure to double check computer-generated information.

"Thorough proofing was not performed, and essentially that is the heart of what lead us astray this April 5th election," Fey said.

According to Fey, there were enough ballots printed, but issues arose because his office failed to provide the correct types of ballot styles for constituents voting at up to 60 polling places.

Fey said the error came as a result of two small St. Louis County villages that failed to certify before the appointed deadline. Fey said the Board of Elections had compiled and accuracy-checked data on a correct number and varieties of ballots to be distributed, but then had to reconfigure the data after a court ordered the two villages be included on the ballot.

When the data was reconfigured, it did not undergo the same thorough checking.

Fey and fellow Elections Board Director Gary Fuhr, said they were unaware of the errors in the new ballot information until 8 a.m. on the morning of the election.

Electronic voting was unavailable because voting machines were used in the March 15 presidential primary and could not be reconfigured quickly enough.

This incident comes in aftermath of a similar issue in St. Louis County in November 2014 in which there were not enough paper ballots for voters.

In the wake of the 2014 incident, then director of the Board of Elections, Rita Days, was removed from her position.

Fuhr said he submitted his resignation after the 2014 election, but his resignation was denied.

But Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, said he felt removal of Fey or Fuhr would be ill-advised.

"With important elections coming up in just five months I think it would be a terrible decision to change leadership with that on the horizon," Barnes said.

Several other committee members vouched for Fuhr, who had previously served as a state representative.

However, Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-St. Louis County, said there appears to be inequity in treatment of board of elections officials.

"Your predecessor was an African American woman," Dogan said. "She was let go when there were issues in November of 2014, and the appearance is that there's a double standard."

Dogan and other committee members called for both Fey and Fuhr to resign.

Under two bills discussed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, April 12, the donation of fetal tissue would be illegal in Missouri.

"Women are often put in situations where aborting of a fetus saves their lives and they feel the least they can do is contribute to science." Rep. Deb Lavender, D- St. Louis City, said in opposition of the bills.

Advocates of the bill told emotional stories of miscarriages in their personal lives.

"How could anyone say that's just tissue?" Rep. Andrew Koenig, R- St. Louis County, asked regarding his still born child.

The bills were debated and amended for close to two hours before the House adjourned.

At the close of the discussion, the body adopted parts one and two of the bills and they were sent to be printed and perfected.


Abortions would be strictly regulated and outright abolished under two bills passed by the House Children and Families Committee April 12.

The first bill would "recognize the right to life of every unborn human child" and would not allow any funding or right to abortion be declared in law.

The measure was amended to deny abortions in cases of rape, incest, or severe health risks of the mother. It originally included an exception in these instances.

Rep. Mike Moon, R-Lawrence County, said the bill asserts all Missourians' right to life from conception.

"However a child is conceived, it's still a child," Moon said.

Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis County, said the measure takes choice out of women's hands, when her life and mental health are at stake.

"It's punitive, it's heartless, and it's saying the legislature knows better," said Newman.

The legislation would have to pass through the House, Senate and a ballot measure to become law.

Another bill puts restrictions on abortion-providing doctors and clinics, as well as the aborted tissue.

Should the measure pass, neither the woman having the abortion nor her doctors could, by law, donate the fetal tissue to a research center. Also, doctors would need stricter qualifications with their local hospitals and abortion clinics would be inspected more often.

Rep. Kathryn Swan, R-Cape Girardeau, said the restrictions are necessary to keep the sanctity of a child's life in mind and protect women when they are getting abortions.

"The use of that tissue could promote that type of activity, and that is not an activity that we in the state of Missouri would like to promote," said Swan.

Those against the bill said the limitations were created to make abortions harder to perform. Newman said abortion is a federal right as stated in Roe v. Wade, and can not be taken away by state law.

"When does the legislature need to intervene in private medical situations?" Newman said.

The bill will go to the House next for approval.

Senate Democrats continued to filibuster contentious voter identification legislation late into the night April 11.

The voter ID legislation would require people to show a government-issued document containing a photo in order to vote. It is being carried by Sen.Will Kraus, R-Jackson County, in the Senate and Rep. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, in the House.

If passed, the changes would come in the form of a constitutional amendment establishing voter photo identification for elections. If the amendment is approved by the voters, the changes would become effective June 1, 2017.

Senate Republicans have said the voter ID legislation aims to stop voter fraud and prevent voter impersonation.

Senate Democrats argued the partisan legislation aims to disenfranchise voters from their base.

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, said on many occasions members of the Republican Party have claimed the intention of ID laws is to disenfranchise Democratic voters.

"Intended ID laws to disenfranchise the Dems. They said it, they said that that's what they're trying to do. Listen to them," Nasheed said. "Listen to people when they tell you what they're doing. This is a national movement."

Nasheed argued the legislation addresses an issue the country does not have.

"We do not have a problem with voter impersonation. We have a problem with voter participation," Nasheed said.

Sen. Kiki Curls, D-Jackson County, said regardless of the legislation's intent, it would hurt those who are already hurting the most.

"Whether it's the intent of the members or not, it's a national movement to suppress voter turnout in the urban communities, by the people who are most disenfranchised already," Curls said.

Other Senate Democrats also argued against the bill. Sen. Scott Sifton, D-St. Louis County, said the bill does a lot more harm to the institution of voting than it does good.

"There's probably a way that we could figure out to solve the voter impersonation problem on one hand without effectively disenfranchising a number of Missourians," Sifton said.

However, Sifton also questioned whether stalling the legislation on the floor, much like Senate Democrats had done with SJR 39, would really be the most effective way to deal with the issue.

While several legislators have criticized University of Missouri officials for how they responded to black student demands, opposite criticism was voiced when top school officials appeared before the House Urban Issues Committee Monday, April 11.

The committee chair -- Rep. Courtney Curtis, D-St. Louis County, and a member of the legislature's Black Caucus -- criticized the leadership of Interim System President Mike Middleton. Curtis said Middleton and other MU officials had failed to provide him with information concerning budgets and diversity spending that had been previously requested.

"You may know this, but I've recently become increasingly more critical of the position that you've held and current position that you hold," Curtis said. "Specifically because we're still waiting on information."

Curtis also said he was unhappy with Middleton's past efforts to move diversity initiatives through at the University of Missouri while he was serving as deputy chancellor.

But Middleton said he had made a consistent effort to bring such issues to the attention of the chancellors he served.

"I was unable to convince the chancellors to take an approach that I personally thought was more appropriate," Middleton said. "There comes a point in time in an organization when the chancellor or the president moves in one direction that you stop nay saying."

Middleton spoke along with several other top university officials, including Pamela Quigg Henrickson, the chair of the Board of Curators, and Chuck Nelson, interim Vice Chancellor for Inclusion, Diversity and Equity.

They were summoned to respond to Curtis' concerns about the inability of the UM System to respond promptly to racial tensions.

"What we did see this year is that the university system, though its not supposed to take a leadership role I suppose, doesn't seem to have a sense of urgency with regard to the diversity issues," Curtis said. "We've moved to protect the budget. We've moved to remove Professor Click, and yet I have a list of 11 items that the Black Caucus has requested, and we still haven't received those items."

But Middleton said progress is already being made.

He pointed to the work being done by Chuck Henson, interim Vice Chancellor for Inclusion, Diversity and Equity, to unify resources on the campus.

"Diversity on campus was somewhat disjointed and siloed," Middleton said. "What the campus has now done is brought all of that under one umbrella, one organizational structure."

Henson said he is confident his position will be helpful, but said it may take time to see results.

"Given the magnitude of the issues, it's extremely difficult to establish the kind of visible palpable changes that we all desire," Henson said. "But I do believe that you have some other programs that are in place that are helpful."

The committee did not reach quorum, with only Representative Courtney Curtis, D-St. Louis County and Representative Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, in attendance.