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Legislators hammer out HealthNet

Governor, Republicans give good marks to ’07 legislature.
Sunday, May 20, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:55 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — The five-month legislative session ended Friday with a spurt of activity as the legislature attempted to approve the major issues Gov. Matt Blunt outlined during his State of the State address in January.

The momentum resolved several high profile bills, but other key issues never made it to the governor’s desk.

Republican leaders were optimistic about what they accomplished this year, but Democrats claimed the General Assembly pushed the wrong issues all session long.

“Legislation was rushed through in a haphazard fashion this year, and we don’t know what the consequences will be,” House Minority Whip Connie Johnson, D-St. Louis, stated in a news release. “This session has not been an exercise in good government.”

The governor praised the session, citing the passage of the MOHELA legislation and MO HealthNet legislation as key victories.

The Senate passed 8 percent or 57 of the 710 bills introduced at the beginning of the legislature, while the House passed 5.8 percent or 76 of the 1,292 bills introduced.

Among the key issues considered were:

MO HealthNet

After several changes and threats of a special legislative session from the governor, the health care reform bill was passed Friday afternoon. Both chambers presented radically different versions of the bill in the weeks leading up to the vote and were able to reach a compromise early Friday morning. The bill has now been sent to the governor to be signed. The bill reorganized the state Medicaid program, creates a chronic kidney disease task force and extends Medicaid coverage to foster children until they turn 21.

Abortion

Senate Republicans forced a vote Friday afternoon and sent the bill to the governor. The bill requires state oversight of abortion clinics, allows schools to teach abstinence-only education and bans people involved with abortion clinics from teaching sexual education.

Minimum wage

A law passed by 76 percent of voters in November 2006 inadvertently requires overtime pay for police, firefighters and other emergency personnel, a move some Missouri communities have said will bankrupt them. The bill repealing that section of the law was brought before the House on Friday but, after very limited discussion, it was returned to the House calendar and not brought up again before the close of the session.

MOHELA

The Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority bill went to the governor’s desk in early May and has not yet been signed. The governor has been talking about the higher loan sale since fall 2005, and the program faced many changes this year, including a ban on stem cell research in buildings funded by the sale and the removal of projects in Kansas City and Columbia after two senators participated in a filibuster.

The bill increases college scholarships, limits university tuition increases and takes $350 million over six years from MOHELA to finance dozens of new and renovated college buildings.

Intellectual diversity

The bill proposed to increase intellectual diversity on college campuses. Commonly referred to as the Emily Brooker Intellectual Diversity Act, the bill passed through the House but was never discussed in the Senate. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, said she will try again next year with the bill.

English only

The proposed constitutional amendment would make English the official language of the state. A vote was forced on the bill Friday and if approved by the governor will be on the next statewide ballot.


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