Major bills left in legislative limbo

Friday, May 15, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri House recessed in the late afternoon Thursday leaving many major issues sitting on the table on the second to last day of the session.

House Majority Floor Leader Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, said the House had finished all its work and was waiting on the Senate for an economic development bill.

"We want a jobs bill, we want to put people back to work, and we want the Senate to take that seriously," Tilley said.

The bill addressing health care is languishing between chambers as the House decided not to begin final negotiations on differences between the House and Senate versions of Show Me Health Care until the Senate reaches an agreement on the economic development bill.

"From my understanding, the House wants an (economic development) bill done, the Senate wants a health care bill done," said House Minority Leader Paul LeVota, D-Jackson County. "It's hard to get a bill done when we're not in session. It sounds like the House has determined that they don't care what the priorities of the Senate are, or the governor, or the good things that move Missouri forward. They're going to close shop."

The Senate has had trouble reaching a compromise over the economic development bill because senators disagree over the inclusion of caps on other already established tax credits in exchange for the creation of the new tax credits proposed in the bill.

Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles County, the Senate sponsor of the health care bill, said he is working on a conference committee substitute in case the Senate passes the economic development bill and the flood gates open, allowing other legislation to get through. Otherwise, Dempsey said he will look into attaching the bill as an amendment onto another bill.  

Missouri lawmakers passed an education bill that provides funding for public and virtual schools and gives districts the choice to adopt a four-day school week in order to reduce transportation costs.

With hundreds of home school advocates rallying outside the state Capitol, lawmakers were quick to add an amendment that ensured home-schooled children would not be affected by a requirement that students reach age 17 or achieve 16 credits before they can drop out.

The House passed by a vote of 139-16 a bill that would allow public defenders to stop taking cases if they are overloaded on cases based on standards set by the Public Defender Commission. 

One concern came from Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia. She says this may make people who are in jail for an innocent crime wait longer for a trial.

However, if a public defender turns down the case, the court could require any lawyer, on the public defender roll or not, to take it on if it is a juvenile or municipal case.

Both the education and public defender bills will now go to the governor's desk.

Statements made during the Wednesday night debate on the abortion bill by Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis County, were not forgotten by Thursday morning.

"I'm sick of the ethic around here of men that are pro-life for their wives and pro-choice for their girlfriends," Bray said.

Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mt. Vernon, expressed his outrage at the comments.

"I can tell that I will not soon and might not ever forget the despicable, slanderous and utterly hateful, unfounded, sleazy insult that was hurled against many of the members of this body last night," Goodman said. "It was hurled against decent, committed families who make sacrifices together to serve the people of Missouri and this Senate."

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