A potential “enterprise zone” in Columbia’s First Ward took its legislative first steps last week, when state Rep. Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, introduced legislation allowing for its creation.
Enterprise zones are set up in areas of the state considered economically disadvantaged, according to the Missouri Department of Economic Development. By giving businesses tax credits to set up shop there, enterprise zones are seen as one way to spark economic growth.
Harris tried to get a zone established in last year’s legislative session, but it failed to make it to the Senate. This year, because there is a statewide enterprise zone bill under consideration, he said he was hopeful that such legislation could pass. Harris’ bill is HB 1752.
The General Assembly must approve the creation of all enterprise zones.
Harris also introduced another bill and had a third pass out of committee. One bill, HB 1751, would create a workers’ compensation council, which is a panel dedicated to tackling the complexities of insurance and other compensation laws.
The third bill, HB 870, which passed out of the House Judiciary Committee, would update Missouri’s Sunshine Law to account for electronic forms of communication.
“If a person sends a request for records by e-mail, those records should be provided by e-mail,” Harris said.
Harris is also serving on the joint House and Senate Conference Committee. It is an important panel because the conferees help merge House and Senate budget proposals into one, hopefully passable, plan. They met Wednesday and Thursday, and will continue meeting until they can get their budget work complete.
Jacob’s filibuster draws ire
State Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, had his tactics called into question last week, climaxing in a three-hour standoff between himself and President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau.
The subject in question was $377.5 million in bonds for, among other things, construction of science research facilities. About $195 million would go to the University of Missouri system, and roughly $90 million of that would head directly to MU for the construction of a health science center.
Understanding this story requires going back to early February, when Jacob launched a filibuster that lasted 24 hours spread over five days, against a name change for Southwest Missouri State University. He said switching the name to the desired “Missouri State University” would cause the UM system to lose state funding.
The bond package was engineered as a way to get Jacob to back down from his filibuster. The UM system would get money; SMSU would get a new name. But Jacob has consistently made it very difficult to take action on the bonds, thereby delaying any action on the name change.
On Wednesday, however, it was Kinder’s turn. He accused Jacob of everything from reneging on an agreement to holding up progress.
“I’m ready to have it out with anyone else who wants to obstruct this,” Kinder said during the debate on the bond legislation. “It’s time to confront obstructionists — starting with the senator from Boone.”
The important underlying dynamic for all of this is the fact that both Kinder and Jacob are vying for the lieutenant governor’s seat in the fall election — neither side can afford to look like they’re stiffing education or life sciences. Hence the pork-barrel nature of the projects, which range from research facilities to tractor repair garages.
Jacob wasn’t available to comment on the obstructionist charge, but Chuck Graham — who resigned his seat in the House to run for Jacob’s Senate seat — said that it was possibly one of Jacob’s most important contributions to the legislative session thus far.
“He’s been able to slow down or kill some really bad legislation,” Graham said.