JEFFERSON CITY — Senate leadership says the Missouri special legislative session is effectively over — without having reached a decision on changing the date of the state's presidential primary election. The primary is said to have no impact in February; Republicans claim they will make their decisions by caucus.
Senators proposed competing amendments Monday: one to eliminate the primary in favor of a caucus and one to keep the primary but move it to January. Debate ensued over whether votes in such a primary would yield any significant results.
"I do not want to waste $8 million, at a very difficult time in the state's history, on a beauty contest," said Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, who favors the caucus plan.
Some Republican senators said a caucus enables the public to choose candidates without spending state money on an election, but others said a caucus alienates voters and does not encourage presidential candidates to visit or campaign in Missouri.
"There's a reason there's discontent with government: Elected officials are not listening to their constituents," Sen. Brad Lager, R-Maryville, said in support of his amendment to move the primary to January.
The senators described Missouri's population as a cross-section of the national population, ideal for a successful primary election. With almost 6 million residents in both urban and rural areas, the state is a better representation of national sentiment than smaller states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, said Sen. Timothy Green, D-St. Louis County. Green said campaign ads and visits for a primary election bring in enough money to the state's economy to make up for the cost to the state.
Both amendments were defeated by a majority vote Monday. The Senate will convene a technical session next Tuesday, but leaders said they have no intention of addressing the matter again.
The Senate also decided to refuse a conference with the House of Representatives to work out a compromise on the business incentive bill that includes tax credits and establishing a China air cargo hub. Major discrepancies between the House and Senate versions of the bill have delayed a final vote, and the absence of House representatives this week makes it impossible to come to an agreement, said Senate President Pro Tem Robert Mayer, R-Dexter.
"The differences between the House and the Senate on this tax reform bill are irreconcilable," said Mayer, who offered the motion to refuse the conference. The chambers particularly disagree on termination dates, also known as sunsets, on tax credits that cost the state millions of dollars per year.
The House is scheduled to convene Wednesday but has promised that unless the Senate accepts its changes, the business incentive bill is essentially dead. Unless the House decides to vote on the bill, only two issues in the governor's call for the special session will have been addressed by the session's conclusion.