JEFFERSON CITY - With two days left in this year's legislative session, Missouri senators have moved on changing the amount of tax credits issued by the state.
In a 28-3 vote the Senate passed a measure Wednesday that caps the amount of tax credits available for historic buildings at $75 million, down from its current cap of $140 million. Only about $110 million of this credit was used over the past year.
The cap on the historic preservation credit came as part of a compromise between state senators on how to deal with the state's tax credits, an issue that brought last year's special session to a standstill.
In addition to the cap, the compromise allows additional tax credits to be allotted for the attraction of amateur sporting events to the state as well as putting a one-year sunset on other "benevolent" tax credit programs, such as one for food banks. Supporters of the compromise said the deal came out of the need for tax credit reform to rein in state spending while still allowing Missouri to attract businesses.
Despite the compromise in the Senate, House leadership said the historic tax credit changes were not acceptable for the House.
The bill also has the unintended consequence of killing a bill that was supposed to increase due diligence standards for public officials involved in economic development projects. The original bill, sponsored by Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, was born out of the failure of an artificial sweetener plant in Moberly after a China-based company had promised to bring over 600 jobs to the state.
The company, Mamtek U.S. Inc., defaulted on a $39 million dollar bond payment to the city, which has since said it will go into default. The collapse of Mamtek spurred an investigation by Missouri lawmakers into the economic development project that resulted in multiple pieces of legislation, including Barnes', creating greater due diligence standards. Under the legislation state and local economic development officials would have to share all information regarding business seeking incentives for starting projects in the state. The measure also would have created a rating system for the Department of Economic Development to use to evaluate the programs, while also requiring background checks for officials of start-up companies.
Even though the bill with the Senate tax credit compromise still contains the due diligence language, Barnes said he would not touch the bill if it came before the House body because he thinks the added measures exceed the scope of the bill, making it unconstitutional. Barnes did say his proposals could still be passed if the governor mandated the changes from the DED or if other vehicles for the measures were passed by the General Assembly.
Barnes also said he would continue to work on increasing due diligence standards until they were passed into law, even if it meant filing new legislation next session.
House approves health care measure
Missouri representatives approved a measure that would allow health care providers to refuse to participate in certain medical practices that violate their ethical or religious beliefs.
Supporters of the bill say that it protects the conscious rights of physicians and health care providers, as well as their religious freedoms since it prohibits these providers from punishment if they do not provide certain medical services, such as contraception or abortion.
House Floor Leader Tim Jones, R-St. Louis County, said the bill was a response to the "onerous" federal health care mandate that was signed into law in 2010. That law is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"This bill protects some of our most fundamental religious rights," Jones said.
Opponents of the bill state, however, that the measure would restrict access to certain types of health care. Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis County, said the bill "affects only health decision that women make" and that it was perpetuating the war on women.
"This bill is specifically about limiting access to birth control, which has been extremely popular since 1960," Newman said while speaking to Rep. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, who also spoke against the bill.
The bill's handler in the House, Rep. Sandy Crawford, R-Dallas, said she was not fighting a war against women and that she would be "appalled" if she had to conduct some of the practices she said health care providers were forced to participate in.
The measure also states that health care providers do not have to obtain medical insurance to cover practices that violate their religious beliefs and that pharmacies cannot be mandated to supply certain medications or devices.
The House passed the measure with a 117-37 vote Wednesday and sent it back to the Senate. The bill's original sponsor, Sen. John Lamping, R-St. Louis County, requested the House and Senate go to conference over the bill because he felt the House changes "watered down" the original bill.
Judge says St. Louis representative cannot run for Senate seat
A Democratic St. Louis representative said she would appeal a court decision that throws her off the ballot to run for a St. Louis City Senate seat.
Rep. Jamilah Nasheed, who filed to run against Democratic incumbent Sen. Robin Wright-Jones, was thrown off the ballot for the seat Wednesday after a St. Louis Circuit Court Judge said she did not meet residency requirements to run in the district. Nasheed represented the main primary challenge to Wright-Jones for the St. Louis City Senate seat.
Wright-Jones had filed a lawsuit questioning whether or not Nasheed lived in the 5th Senate district, which was redrawn this year due to redistricting. Nasheed argued that she qualified to run in the 5th since the new district lines took in part of the old 4th district, where she currently resides. Judge Joan Moriarty, however, said Nasheed's argument was invalid since she did not live in a part of the 4th that was placed in the new 5th. In his opinion, Moriarty also said Nasheed's argument would allow candidates to run in multiple districts.
Other legislative business
Missouri lawmaker moved on numerous other issues Wednesday in an attempt to get them through both chambers before the legislature's constitutionally mandated adjournment at 6 p.m. on Friday. Some of these measures included: