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Missouri House to vote on jobs bill

Thursday, September 29, 2011 | 2:44 p.m. CDT; updated 5:03 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 29, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri House of Representatives leaders are planning to revive a dormant special session by bringing representatives back to the Capitol next week to vote on legislation creating new incentives for businesses that hire workers and export products internationally.

House Speaker Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, and Majority Leader Tim Jones, R-Eureka, confirmed Thursday to The Associated Press that majority Republicans plan to meet privately as a caucus next Wednesday to discuss the legislation. They said a vote of the full House is scheduled for the next day.

The House and Senate parted ways acrimoniously last week without agreeing on the details of a job-creation bill that has been the centerpiece of a special legislative session that began Sept. 6. At the time, House leaders said they would not vote on a bill without first reaching a consensus with the Senate, but Senate leaders said there was no point in negotiating further until the House first voted on its own version of an economic development bill previously passed by the Senate.

House leaders said Thursday that their new plans for a vote do not mean they have reached a consensus with the Senate. Rather, House leaders said they want to send senators a bill for consideration.

"We still don't have an agreement, but the House has entered special session saying we'll do A, B, C and D — and passing an economic development bill was one of those things," said Tilley. "We're going to make sure at the end of the day that the House has done what we said we were going to do."

Jones said he expects a revised version of the legislation to be printed and available to lawmakers on Monday. The House Economic Development Committee then would vote on the bill Wednesday, House Republicans would caucus privately that evening and the bill would reach the House floor for debate the following day.

"I think there is a strong sentiment in this chamber to get something done," Jones said.

Legislators so far have given final approval to two bills during their special session. One revises a contentious new Missouri law limiting teachers' interaction with students over the Internet. The other could create a new incentive fund for science-based companies, but it includes wording making it contingent upon the enactment of the broader economic development bill pending in the House.

That broader bill would scale back or eliminate many of Missouri's existing tax credit programs. It also would create new incentives for international air cargo shipments at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, computer data centers and amateur sports events. One of the sticking points between the House and Senate is a provision backed by Gov. Jay Nixon to roll several of Missouri's current business incentives into a new program called Compete Missouri, which would give the Department of Economic Development new authority to provide upfront cash to companies. Lawmakers also are at odds over whether to place expiration dates on existing tax credits for the renovation of historic buildings and the construction of low-income housing.

The president of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other business leaders met Wednesday in St. Louis with Tilley, Jones and state Rep. John Diehl, R-Town and Country, who has been a lead negotiator on the legislation. Tilley said the business representatives expressed their desire for legislators to pass an economic development bill before the special session automatically expires Nov. 5.

On Thursday, the House met in a technical session — a procedural move in which only a few lawmakers show up for a quick meeting that includes no business but allows the special session to keep going. Reaction was mixed about renewed plans to vote on a bill.

"It is important to get something passed. Otherwise it looks like we came up here and we had a nice debate and we didn't accomplish anything," said Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, who presided over Thursday's the short session.

But Rep. Melissa Leach, R-Springfield, said she continues to have concerns about a section of the bill that would allow tax credits to flow to warehouses and other facilities built to support international cargo shipments at the St. Louis airport.

"Most of my constituents — and I think many around the state — are already articulating, 'Kill the bill and go home,'" Leach said.


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