JEFFERSON CITY — The China cargo hub and tax break bill is back in action after a House committee approved an updated version of the legislation on Wednesday — but it was advanced to the House by a committee whose chair blocked members from offering amendments to the bill.
House Economic Development Committee chairwoman Anne Zerr, R-St. Charles, called for an immediate vote on the bill, blocking any discussion, amendments or debate by committee members.
The committee heard hours of testimony on the Senate's version of the bill last week and spent several days making changes. The China hub bill, termed the Missouri Export Act as of Tuesday, limits multiple state tax credit programs while offering tax credits for developers to create an international trade hub in St. Louis.
Blocked from a committee vote was an amendment that would have imposed a seven-year termination, or sunset, on two of the state's largest tax credits for developers — historic preservation and low-income housing construction.
Senate leaders have said the bill will not survive if those sunsets are not included.
While not including the sunsets, the House committee version of the bill caps the amount of money the state can give out each year for some tax credits programs.
Zerr prevented Rep. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, from offering an amendment intended to restore these sunsets;. Nasheed said that without the amendment, the bill is dead on arrival.
Nasheed promptly went to her car to drive back home to St. Louis, abandoning the special session.
"I had an amendment to offer, and that amendment was not allowed in committee," Nasheed said in telephone interview from her car. "And I felt like, you know, if we're going to run this government just like China then there's no need for me to be there."
"There will be no job creation this year," Nasheed said.
Zerr originally said she would accept amendments, but she decided the committee would only address an amendment for a technical word change after consulting with committee members.
"Nobody in leadership told me to do this. This was a decision based on what I thought after listening to people," Zerr said. "What I thought was the right thing to do and just give people time to look at this. Let's take it to the full floor; let's debate the full floor."
The bill passed the committee with a 21 to 4 vote. The bill will be open for debate in the chamber when the House meets Thursday.
Nasheed and some Senate leaders have said that other legislation addressed in the special session, such as a bill giving St. Louis local control of its police department, has been pushed aside in favor of the China hub proposal. Some, such as Nasheed, have decided they're done with the special session, which lawmakers had originally planned to conclude Sept. 23.
"I'm done with the circus," Nasheed said. "I'm not going to be a part of this circus."