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Nov 2011 e-Newsletter

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Our Broken Legislative System

The Legislature recently adjourned the 2011 Special Session. Governor Nixon called the session to enact an economic development package to help boost Missouri’s economy.  Prior to calling the Special Session, the House and Senate leadership assured the Governor that the two houses were in agreement and that the economic development bills would be passed without delay.

Two of the measures were particularly important to Boone County.  The first, the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act (MOSIRA), provided incentives to business development in the areas of science and technology by increasing the flexibility for the State and the University to engage in joint ventures.  Both the University and the local Chamber of Commerce actively supported MOSIRA.  I was pleased to join the entire mid-Missouri delegation in voting in favor of the bill that did pass both houses and was signed into law by Governor Nixon.

There is a potential problem with MOSIRA, however, in that the Senate added a provision that ties the enactment of Senate Bill 7 (MOSIRA) to the passage of Senate Bill 8, the larger economic development bill, which was not enacted.  Many people, myself included, believe that this limitation is meaningless and that, when tested in Court, the connection between the two bills will be held unconstitutional. Nevertheless, this issue remains as a cloud over MOSIRA until resolved.

The second important bill, SB8, would have established the China Hub at Lambert Airport in St. Louis.  The bill also contained two other sections of importance to Columbia and Boone County. One would have established financial incentives for new Data Centers.  The bill also would have created an incentive for large sporting events such as NCAA basketball regionals and sub-regional tournaments.

Senate Bill 8 passed the Senate and the House in different forms––the most important difference being whether and how certain tax credits would be subject to sunset provisions.  When a difference in the language between the two bodies of the Legislature exists, the method to resolve those differences is a Conference Committee. Each body appoints five members to work together to resolve the differences and recommend a compromise version. I was honored to have been appointed to serve as one of the House Conferees along with my Boone County colleague, Representative Steven Webber.

House Conferees were appointed and were ready to meet with Senate counterparts. The Senate, however, refused to appoint its Conferees, thereby not even attempting to resolve the differences on the bill.

The reason given by the Senate was that a few extremely right-wing Senators threatened the Senate leadership with a filibuster on the appointment of a Conference Committee.  The Senate leadership bowed to that pressure. Therefore, this measure, which would have been economically beneficial for the entire State––and especially for Boone County––died without even an attempt to resolve the differences between the Senate and the House.

I have been involved with legislative work for a long time.  One of the geniuses of the system is that it forces people to work together to achieve compromise. When one of the bodies allows a tiny minority of its members to paralyze the entire state over whether we should even try to compromise, our system is broken.

This is not a partisan issue. Virtually all of the Democrats and a large majority of the Republicans were on board for Missouri. The problem was entirely within the leadership of the Senate that allowed its most radical members to prevent even discussion of the important legislation.

Although I was pleased to have supported MOSIRA and was happy to be the House sponsor of the corrective language to the Amy Hester Child Protection Act––the only other bill to have passed in the Special Session––I am wholly disheartened with the performance of the General Assembly.  It is worth noting that the same Senators who stopped Senate Bill 8 also prevented earlier passage of the Callaway II Nuclear Plant expansion and the passage of the Higher Education Construction Bonds.

We must repair a broken legislative system that repeatedly allows a few individuals to thwart the efforts of an elected body to legislate for the general benefit of the State.

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Also Left on the Cutting Room Floor

The 2011 Missouri Legislative Special Session began on Sept. 6 and was only supposed to last a few days. But 52 days later the Senate and House, deadlocked over a job creation and tax credit reform bill, failed to act on other significant pieces of legislation.

Also left on the cutting room floor were bills to establish local control to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, provide property tax relief for businesses destroyed during the May tornado in Joplin, grant limited amnesty to those who owe back state taxes and reschedule Missouri’s February presidential primary from March.

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Let the Comma Decide

In June, Governor Nixon reduced $170 million from the FY 2012 budget citing the results of the Joplin tornado and the spring flooding. Nixon claims that the Governor has the authority to control expenditures. Auditor Tom Schweich claims that the Governor can only reduce funding if revenue is running behind the estimates used to build the budget in the Legislature.

The argument is before a Cole County Judge and will likely reach the Missouri Supreme Court.

As AP writer David A. Leib notes in his excellent explanation of the issue, the issue rests on the interpretation of the placement of a comma:

The argument centers on a section of the Missouri Constitution that says: “The governor may control the rate at which any appropriation is expended during the period of the appropriation by allotment or other means, and may reduce the expenditures of the state or any of its agencies below their appropriations whenever the actual revenues are less than the revenue estimates upon which the appropriations were based.”

Read Leib’s complete article here.

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2012 Missouri House District Boundaries Still Unknown

Every ten years, after each decennial Census, state legislative district lines are redrawn to align current populations with their political representatives.  The redistricting process continues this year after both the state Senate and House Redistricting Committees failed to reach consensus on drawing new maps.  The duty then fell to six Appellate Court judges appointed by the Missouri Supreme Court, with three judges appointed by Democratic governors and three appointed by Republican governors.

At present, Missouri legislators do not know where their 2012 district boundary lines will fall. They await the decision of the Appellate Apportionment Commission, which began accepting testimony in mid-October in support of drawing new boundaries for the state’s 163 House districts and 34 Senate seats.  Its decision, due by Dec. 17, is final­­––unless challenged in the courts.

An Appellate Apportionment Commission has been required to redistrict either the Missouri House or the Senate or both after every census since 1970. In 2001, both chambers were judicially drawn, as will happen again this year.

While Missouri’s population grew 7% from 2000 to 2010, Boone County grew by 20.1%. Therefore, Boone County will gain the equivalent of one additional House district beginning in 2012, making a total of 4.42 districts.  The population size of each House District is calculated by taking the 2010 population of the state––5,988,927–– and dividing by 163 districts, resulting in the ideal population size of 36,742.

Three House Districts are currently contained wholly within Boone County, while two districts cover portions of Boone County together with portions of adjoining counties. There is no requirement, however, that any district be wholly contained within the county, therefore the number of districts located within the boundaries of Boone County remains unclear.

In order to meet the ideal population size, HD23 currently held by Rep. Stephen Webber will need to be reduced by 2,443 people, HD25 held by Rep. Mary Still will need to lose 3,790, and HD24 held by Rep. Chris Kelly will need to be downsized by 10,154 residents.

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The 2011 Special Session…From Other Perspectives

The Kansas City Star:

Stand back! Missouri special session going down in flames

St Louis Today.com:

Many losers in Missouri special session

NBC Action News.com:

Missouri special sessions ends with no economic development package

Stateline.org:

Missouri special session collapses over jobs bill

Voices Kansas City.com:

Stick a fork in Missouri’s ‘special’ session. It’s done

“The session goes on the books as one of the legislature’s great debacles…”

Kansas City Star editorial:

Missouri’s special session was a bust

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Kelly Receives Two Prestigious Awards

The Geyer Award

Rep. Kelly was recently honored to receive two prestigious awards for his work on behalf of the University of Missouri.  On September 21, the Mizzou Alumini Association announced the recipients of their 2011 Geyer Public Service Awards––State Representative Chris Kelly and past UM System President Gary D. Forsee––for their efforts in supporting higher education public policy.

The Mizzou Alumini Association’s Legislative Network Committee annually presents the awards to one state-elected official and one citizen who exemplify the dedication and spirit of Henry S. Geyer.  A former state representative, Geyer believed education was the key to progress and prosperity in Missouri and introduced a bill to establish the University of Missouri in 1839.

“The 2011 Geyer Award recipients have made a tremendous impact on higher education in Missouri,” Wally Pfeffer, chair of the MAA’s Legislative Network Committee, said.  “Both of these recipients exemplify commitment to higher education and their efforts are very meaningful to the future of higher education in our state.”

This is the second time Rep. Kelly has received this award.  He received the 1998 Geyer Public Service Award as a private citizen for his support of higher education public policy.

Read the news release.

The Presidential Citation Award

On October 25 Rep. Kelly was notified that he was selected for the Alliance of Alumni Associations and Extension Presidential Citation Award.  Each year, the University President, each campus’ alumni association, and Extension select one person to receive the Citation.

The award letter states: “You were selected because of your outstanding and continuing service to the University of Missouri. Your contributions are greatly appreciated.”

The Awards Dinner honoring Rep. Kelly will be held on Friday, November 18 at the Clinton Club in Mizzou Arena.

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