Monday, May 12, 2014

Final Week Drama

Not too much drama ahead in this final week.  But chambers convene today at 3pm, an hour earlier than their usual appointed time for the past five months.  In previous years, if there was a sense of urgency, they might be starting up at 10am on this final Monday.

What’s out there…

Transportation Sales Tax – House Dems said Friday that they were no longer on board with this.  What changed?  The override of the governor’s veto on the tax cut bill.  With the context of that tax cut, Dems are saying that this sales tax increase is a simple shift of tax burden from higher income Missourians – getting a 25% cut on their LLC – to low-income Missourians paying another .75% on all their necessary purchases.  It’s now a tough sell to push it through the House, even though the House previously approved a 1% version.

Student Transfer Fix – Where will the House and the Senate meet?  One big issue is how much revenues will follow the students to their transferring district, but there are plenty of places for disagreement.  However, there are a lot of folks trying to make this happen and no one expects to be 100% happy.  Last time I handicapped it I did the coin toss 50%, but I think if I had to bet, I’d bet on passage.  Put it at 55%.  Behind the scene maneuvering has created some hard feeling among House Dem colleagues.  Everyone wants to be on the conference committee.

Even with passage though, a potential Nixon veto looms…

72-Hour Wait – This has stalled in the Senate.  There are rumors that it’s the one issue where a PQ might be attempted.  Six senate Republicans are reportedly united withhold their votes from a PQ, taking it off the table.  And there’s at least one more GOP senator who wouldn’t go along as well.  But – one rumor on 72-hour wait is that Missouri Right to Life wants a PQ vote on the issue even knowing such a vote would fail because they would folks on the record.  Their motive is to “separate the wheat from the chaff” on the issue via a “rated” vote for anyone seeking higher office.  I believe there may be some truth to the rumor, but that Pro Tem Tom Dempsey would squash the plan.  He’s not the type to let members of his caucus get yanked around for a third-party special interest – even one he supports.

All seemingly dead or comatose… right to work; tobacco settlement changes, medical malpractice caps, ethic reform, 911 tax, and… wait for it… Medicaid expansion.

But one issue which came out of the blue last week and is now at center stage… the Tesla car controversy…

Car War

In the lobbyists registrations (below) there was a spat of hiring on Friday last week revolving around the Tesla car controversy.  Tesla, a manufacturer of electric cars, sells its product directly to consumers.  It doesn’t have traditional car dealers.

The Senate added language to HB 1124 which prohibit the direct to consumer distribution, effectively – according to Tesla – putting them out of business in Missouri.

The supporters of the change will have to win the vote in the House – without any amendments.  If this bill goes to conference, it likely gets killed if it goes back to the Senate.  Like the “Liquor franchise war” of last session (see eMailbag below), even a strong Senate vote just last week (only 3 No votes), is no shield of invincibility against a final week filibuster.  More senators will be asking questions now that the issue has been raised prominently.

This issue really could be fascinating to watch because it may defy conventional partisan labels.  The Tesla hiring speaks to this – Danny Pfeifer’s Catalysts Strategy, Brent Hemphill & Associates, and former speaker Steve Tilley are all considered Republican-ish lobbyists. And Scott Penman and David Winton are known for their advocacy (more Dmeocratic) clients.

The provision seemingly increasing regulations might be unpopular with free market type Republicans, and something which would create an obstacle to electric cars might be a problem for liberals who like the idea of migrating from an oil-based economy.

One observer noted that it’s interesting part of the Tesla team – Catalyst Strategy and Tilley – have been very effective for organized labor this session working the House to prevent the right to work from moving.  So it’s funny to see them digging in for Tesla now, presumably a kind of auto company (i.e. non-union) that the unions aren’t thrilled with.

And

Not listed on the lobbyist registration, but apparently working the media and coordinating message is former Nixonite Tightline Strategies’ Jac Cardetti.  That should serve as a reminder that even if Tesla loses the legislative battle, there’s always a chance for a second-floor veto…

Looking Around the Corner

Last week I started mentioning the rumors circulating for various committee chairmanships.  The speculation game has started as lobbyists always try to stay a few moves ahead of the action.

A development which might make the game a little harder to play is a potential reorganization of committees in the House.  A few weeks ago it’s said that Speaker-designate John Diehl told his caucus that he was considering a revamp of the committee structure and they should give to their input or new ideas on the subject.

According to a thought leader on the issue, a possible realignment would mirror the executive branch’s organization.  As envisioned, there would be a main committee with an executive branch twin (Committee on Economic Development paired with Department of Economic Development; Committee on Agriculture paired with Department of Agriculture; Committee on Natural Resources paired with Department of Natural Resources etc…).  Beneath these main committee would be sub-committees or special committees which would focus on a specific policy area.  (Maybe an Economic Development Tax Credit Reform Committee, an Economic Development Incentivizing Start-Ups Committee etc).  These would operate the way the House Appropriations Committees do, feeding into the main Budget Committee.  The chairs of the smaller committees might all sit on the main committee.

One advantage seen to this structure would be that the main committee would be able to more effectively have oversight of its executive branch peer.  Some House Republicans think that the bureaucracy has been able to exploit the current fragmented structure to expand their power. Additionally the sub-committee structure might helpful building institutional knowledge and expertise within the House, again as a counterweight over time to the executive branch.

Finally another advantage might be that the main committee could operate as the Rules Committee traditional has, vetting bills which pass out of the sub-committees, relieving the bottle-neck of the Rules Committee.

There might still be committees – like Utilities for example – that still exist because they don’t fit a nice overlay with the executive branch organization.  But many committee would (Agribusiness Committee etc) likely be folded in underneath these main committee.

 

Rea Scharnhorst Bounced

Three candidates were disqualified on Friday, and a fourth withdrew.  See the secretary of state’s website here.

The highest profile of the bounced candidates was Rea Scharnhorst, wife of term-limited Dwight Scharnhorst.  Her disqualification in House 98 narrows that field to two: Carol Veillette and Shamed Dogan.  Based on fundraising and past experience Dogan is the favorite now.

There’s no reason given on the SOS website for the disqualifications, but one credible source says that this round of DQ came from the Department of Revenue, implying that unpaid taxes could be the cause behind the action.  That’s surprising since one would think her husband, the incumbent, would be well aware of those requirements.

Also gone are Marigrace Binning, a Democrat, in House 98; Derron Black, a Republican, in House 23; and Lorenzo Baylor, a Democrat, in House 69.

Yay for Justus/Justice?

Governor Jay Nixon reportedly told Sen. Jolie Justus that he would not be vetoing the massive criminal code revision that she and Sen. Bob Dixon shepherded through the legislature.

eMailbag: On Tesla Controversy

“Shocking!!  A late amendment that has someone upset.  I have never heard of such a thing.  It is the liquor wars part II…”

Lobbyist Registrations

From the Gate Way Group website:

Jorgen Schlemeier, Jeffery N Brooks, Sarah Topp, Bill Gamble, and Ginger Steinmetz added Missouri Automobile Dealers Association.

Heath C Clarkston, Danny Pfeifer, Greg Porter, Alex Eaton, Mike Grote, Brent Hemphill, Kristian Starner, Scott Penman, David Winton, and Steve Tilley added Tesla Motors Inc.

Lynne M Schlosser added New Venture Fund – Collaborative for Student Success.

Angelita King deleted Missouri Alzheimer’s Coalition.

$5K+ Contributions

Lewis & Clark Regional Leadership Forum - $12,000 from Bank of Washington.

Missourians for Fair Taxation - $30,000 from Missouri Association of REALTORS.

Friends of Tom Schweich - $10,000 from Jerry Summers Sr.

House Republican Campaign Committee Inc. - $10,000 from Friends of Tilley.

Dooley for St. Louis County - $10,000 from Ameren Missouri.

Birthdays

Happy birthday to Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder (60).