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Feb 14 – Weekly Capitol Update

| February 14, 2013


For the eighth straight year, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on Feb. 14 approved legislation that seeks to require Missourians to show government-issued photo identification at their polling place in order to vote. Such a requirement could potentially disenfranchise many of the estimated 250,000 Missourians — mostly elderly, poor, disabled and minority voters — who don’t posses a driver’s license or other government ID and can’t easily obtain one. The House action, which Democrats opposed, came on a pair of companion measures, which now move to the Senate.

HJR 5, a proposed constitutional amendment that would appear on the November 2014 statewide ballot for voter ratification, passed 107-46. It would grant the General Assembly the power to impose a photo voter ID requirement in an attempt to overrule a 2006 Missouri Supreme Court decision that said lawmakers lack such authority under the state constitution. HB 48, which passed 105-48, would implement the ID requirement, contingent upon voter approval of HJR 5.

In addition to the 2006 photo voter ID law the Supreme Court invalidated, Republican lawmakers also passed a proposed photo voter ID constitutional amendment, along with implementing legislation, in 2011. Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed the implementing bill, and the proposed amendment didn’t go on the November 2012 ballot as scheduled after a judge ruled Republican lawmakers had crafted “insufficient and unfair” ballot language for it that was designed to deceive voters.

As the Supreme Court noted in its 2006 decision, the only type of fraud that a photo voter ID requirement could o prevent is voter impersonation at the polls. There has never been a reported case of voter impersonation in Missouri.


The Missouri Senate on Feb. 14 gave first-round approval to legislation that seeks to reinstate local Missouri sales taxes on vehicles purchased in other states. The Missouri Supreme Court last year ruled that such taxes, which had been being collected for decades, are illegal. The bill, SB 182, requires a second Senate vote to advance to the House of Representatives.

Ruling in Street v. Director of Revenue, the court said Missouri cities and counties have no authority to impose local sales taxes on motor vehicles, boats, outboard motors or trailers purchased in other states. Rather, the court said the proper tax to capture revenue from such purchases is the compensating use tax, which applies items purchased in another state but used in Missouri.

The court’s decision didn’t affect the state or those local jurisdictions that have a use tax. Cities and counties that don’t have a use tax, however, have lost substantial revenue as a result. And auto dealers along the state’s borders say they are losing sales as word has gotten out that Missourians who live in cities or counties without a use tax can save hundreds of dollars by buying a vehicle in a neighboring state.

Lawmakers overwhelmingly passed similar legislation addressing the Street decision last year, but Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed it due to numerous constitutional problems. Although SB 182 omits many of those problems, it still would declare an out-of-state vehicle purchase to be an in-state purchase for the purpose of levying local sales taxes, which the court said the state cannot do.


The House Committee on Emerging Issues in Health Care on Feb. 13 held a public hearing on legislation that seeks to restore a statutory cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases that the Missouri Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional last year. Doctors’ groups support restoring the cap, saying it helps keep down medical malpractice insurance rates. Attorneys who represent medical malpractice victims say it is improper to arbitrarily limit damages without regard to the facts of a given case.

Although the Supreme Court recently has upheld damage caps in some instances, it ruled in July 2012 that the $350,000 cap on non-economic damages, which includes compensation for pain and suffering, violates the constitutional right of a jury to determine damage awards. The court drew a distinction from the earlier cases by finding that while the General Assembly may limit damages in statutorily created causes of action, under the state constitution it cannot interfere with damage awards in common law causes of action that existed at the time Missouri became a state in 1820.

The legislation under consideration by the House committee, HB 112, attempts to abrogate medical malpractice as a common law cause of action and create a statutory cause of action in its place. However, since the bill wouldn’t change the fact that medical malpractice was a common law cause of action in 1820, it is questionable as to whether the bill would achieve its purpose. Other legislation has been filed that proposes amending the Missouri Constitution to specifically authorize damage caps.


Category: Weekly Capitol Update

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