Thursday, January 14, 2016

Sprinting Start

The prognostications that the legislature would drift through his election-year session look completely wrong right now.  There’s a sense of urgency in both chambers.

The House voted on an ethics bill yesterday with more in the pipeline.

And the Senate is moving headlong on several fronts… expert witness bill, transportation tax, abortion, and urban earning taxes.

It looks like Speaker Todd Richardson and Pro Tem Ron Richard have embarked on a coordinated effort to not waste the early weeks as has happened in past sessions.  (I don’t think Rob Mayer had even assigned committees at this point in the session when he was pro tem.)

And one observer thinks the two are working well together.  He says they must have huddled on the expert witness bill… Because it will face challenges in the House, the Senate is starting the process.  If it started on the House side and barely passed, members of the Senate would be unenthusiastic to use time debating it.  That’s because they’d know an impossible veto override would prove a waste of their political capital.

On the House side members are less able to pressure leadership against taking tough votes, so this allows the bill to make it to the governor’s desk – even if it faces the veto pen.


Keaveny on Earnings Tax

In anticipation of the Thursday, January 14, Ways and Means hearing on Senate Bill Senator Joseph Keaveny, D-St. Louis, criticized the bill.

"Once again, despite local opposition, legislation is being pushed to eliminate the earnings tax. This would cut one-third of the operating budget of St. Louis City," Sen. Keaveny said. "In Kansas City, 40 percent of the general fund would be eliminated; of that, 74 percent is funding for public safety.  The budget of both the police force and firefighters is in jeopardy, thus jeopardizing public safety."

In 2011, citizens of the City of St. Louis voted in an almost nine-to-one vote ratio against the new proposition, with 88 percent of voters electing to keep the earnings tax.  In that same year, Kansas City voters supported the earnings tax by 78 percent.

"There is no plan to replace the loss of operating revenue for these two cities. With a vote on the earnings tax on the ballot in April, perhaps it would be best if we let voters have their say," Sen. Keaveny said.


Humphreys for Randles

Super-size donor David Humphreys gave $50,000 to Bev Randles yesterday.  In the past there’s been a pattern of large checks from the Humphreys’ family coming in threes.  One from David, another from his sister Sarah Atkins, and a third from his mother Ethelmae Humphreys.  So be on the look out…

Randles’ lieutenant governor bid has been dinged by the fact that she’s was been bankrolled almost singularly by a $1 million check from Rex Sinquefield until this point.  So the addition of the Humphreys family will double her base.

I’m expecting Randles’ primary opponent, Sen. Mike Parson, to outraise her and have more cash on-hand than her this quarter.  The deadline for reports is tomorrow.


Noranda Blues

Aluminum giant Noranda announced a big lay-off in work force and said the smelter itself is in jeopardy of closing.  Although it’s shocking news, it’s not unexpected.  For months I’ve written about Noranda’s plummeting stock price because of the difficult operating environment for commodities.  It closed at 24 cents yesterday.

See the Post-Dispatch article here.

Pull Quote: Noranda Aluminum plans to lay off more than half of the 850 employees at its New Madrid, Mo., smelter and will shut the factory down altogether unless it can win an even lower electricity rate from Ameren Missouri.

What It Means

Noranda is a big employer in a part of Missouri without a lot of big employers.  This may give the legislature some motivation to step in and see if they can help.  Of course, such an action would violate the mantra that Republicans have chanted for several years now about government not being in the business of picking winners and losers.  And the truth is that the macro-economic forces will likely overwhelm any attempted aid package.


Blunt $ > Kander $

In the U.S. Senate race Democrat Jason Kander and Republican Roy Blunt both preannounced their quarter.  Incumbent Blunt continues to lead the money race. He has $5 million in the bank; Kander’s war-chest sits at $2 million.  That’s a significant lead, but most observers will say that as long as Kander keeps raising at his current rate, he’ll have enough to get his message out.

I continue to believe that this race will hinge on the political environment.  If Kander catches a good Democratic year, it can take him to DC.  Blunt meanwhile wins in a Republican year, and should be considered the favorite in a luffing year.


RTW Groups Meet, Plot, Etc

The informal coalition of the conservative groups aiming to make Missouri a right to work state met yesterday in Jefferson City.  At the meeting were representatives from Americans for Prosperity, Missouri Freedom Alliance, Missouri Club for Growth, David Humphreys, and United for Missouri.


Ed Not Running in 2016

Forget the rumors of an Ed Martin primary of Congresswoman Ann Wagner.  As much as he hated the “white flag Congress,” that’s not happening.  Now, 2018 when Wagner runs for U.S. Senate…..


Media Watch

Ellen Sherberg, the long-time publisher of the St. Louis Business Journal, is leaving that position. She started with the Journal when it was still digging out its niche, and helped build it into its current position.  Additionally, unlike other “business journals,” she’s fearlessly written editorials on the topics of the day.  See Post-Dispatch article here.


Lobbyists Registrations

Jason Zamkus added Office of The Governor; and deleted Missouri Department of Economic Development.

Shawn Rigger added Uber Technologies Inc, Missouri AFL-CIO, MACO Development Company LLC, Supermarket Merchandising, Tesla Motors Inc, Gardner Capital, Fred Weber Inc., Phoenix Home Care, and National Association of Vision Care Plans.

Chris Moody added Missouri Hospital Association, Altria Client Services LLC and its Affiliates - Philip Morris Usa Inc., John Middleton Co., U.s. Smokeless Tobacco Co., And Nu Mark LLC, and Pyramid Group.

Mark Schwartz and Andrew Blunt added Tri County Lodging Association.

Jay Reichard added Truman Medical Center Charitable Foundation.

Mark Schwartz added Missouri Trucking Association.

Andrew Blunt, Mark Schwartz, Jay Reichard and Chris Moody added St. Louis Blues, Missouri Cable Television Association, and Kiel Center Partners/scottrade Center.

Mark Schwartz, Jay Reichard and Chris Moody deleted Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Andrew Blunt, Jay Reichard and Mark Schwartz deleted AT&T, and Schreimann, Rackers, Francka And Blunt, LLC.


$5K+ Contributions

Progress KC PAC - $10,000 from Husch Blackwell LLP.

Progress KC PAC - $25,000 from John Sherman.

Missourians for Randles - $50,000 from David Humphreys.

Greitens for Missouri - $25,000 from Susan and William Oberndorf.



Happy birthday to Floor Leader Mike Cierpiot, and former Rep. Margaret Donnelly.