Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Car Wars

For this session the “anti-Tesla” language appears to be truly and finally dead in the House.  This despite efforts by supporters of the language – namely the Missouri Automobile Dealers Association (MADA).

They issued a statement that they were still working it… “Auto dealers across the state have operated within Missouri’s vehicle franchise law for nearly thirty years.  We believe that the law protects Missouri auto consumers and promotes market competition and should continue to be in place.  Today, along with leadership from Tesla Motors and House Majority Leader John Diehl, we continued discussions on a legislative solution to ensure this law continues to be applied fairly in Missouri. We are pleased with the progress of the discussions and will continue working on this important issue in the coming days.”

For the auto dealers, it’s possible that they’re not really worried about Tesla – a niche auto-maker that has benefited from massive government aid to bring their product to market.  Instead MADA may be fortifying their position against a yet unseen threat.  Perhaps they imagine that another auto maker (“one whose name we can’t even pronounce now”) from Asia, think China or India someday with cheap labor, that could undercut homegrown businesses and domestic automobile production and distribution with direct to customer deliveries. 

If this is the ultimate MADA threat, then they should be able to work out language to accommodate Tesla’s presence without yielding their position.   But it’s complicated and hammering and ironing will take more time than is left in this session.   Put it in the December pre-files…

Meanwhile

The Sunday Motorcycle bill zoomed along.  Rep. Mike Cierpoit’s HB 1735 was truly agreed and finally passed.  It allows motorcycle sales on Sunday.  Motorcycle dealers were worried they’d lose Sunday sales to Kansas without the ability to compete.  Auto sales, though, are still prohibited.  Lobbyist Kathi Harness worked the issue, getting it passed on the first year out.

Budget Blues?

State tax receipts have come in at a disappointing rate this year.  With little time left before the end of the fiscal year, Missouri is struggling to show positive growth in tax receipts.

Yesterday’s daily numbers showed that overall net general revenue collections are -.27%, just a shade below flat.  The bellwether individual income tax receipts are down 1.52%.  This is being partially explained by an extraordinary event in the previous fiscal year when individuals fearing a higher tax rate coming pushed some of their income into that year.

It’s also interesting to note that refund expenditures are down 4.69%, running $48 million below a year ago.  One wonders whether the anecdotal talk of folks not receiving their refund checks from the state yet are part of a slow-down for cash maintenance purposes…

Student Transfer Fix

Governor Jay Nixon held a press conference yesterday and said that he strongly disagreed with the inclusion of the “private option” in the legislature’s student transfer bill.  He didn’t use the word veto, but that was clearly the message.  The Post-Dispatch’s Alex Stuckey writes about it here.

Supporters of the bill expressed frustration with the governor.  Children’s Education Council of Missouri’s statement: “Gov. Nixon has not been engaged or bothered to weigh-in on this issue at all throughout this entire legislative session. Yet today, as the bill is one House vote and one Senate vote away from anticipated passage, he decided to hold a press conference and threaten to veto the bill if it passes.  Today, with less than three days left in session and no time left to re-craft a bill, Gov. Nixon has come forward and attempted kill the bill and in effect, disenfranchise students in Normandy and Riverview Gardens School Districts.”

Other supporters were more hopeful that the governor wouldn’t veto the bill, believing that he doesn’t want to have “to own the issue.”  That is, if the legislature provides a bipartisan fix to the current crisis facing some districts and the governor vetoes it, isn’t he bound to propose his own solution and call a special session?

Right now the smart money is on passage, a veto and no special session… See ya in January folks….

Transportation Sales Tax

After House Democrats threatened late last week to pull their support for the transportation sales tax due to the override of the income tax cut, there have been little signs of a thaw.  Supporters of the proposal remain hopeful.   They think that their Republican vote count will inch up by a few votes because the 1% was reduced to .75%.  However they would still need somewhere in the ballpark of 15 Dems to vote for it.  Because Dems generally view it as a jobs bill – and good jobs too – there might ultimately be 15 by the end of the week.  This is, after all, the longest week of the year…

However they might not have that long, House Floor Leader John Diehl seems ready to bring it to a vote and call the Dems’ bluff.  If so, that could happen today or tomorrow.  With his Republican votes from the first vote solid, its failure to pass would be on the Dems’ hands…

A Fundraiser People Will Be Dying To Go To?

Rep. Kim Gardner will be holding a re-election fundraiser on June 7 at the Eddie Randle & Sons Funeral Home, 4600 Natural Bridge, 63115…

Schweich-Zweifel Snit Over Salaries

The State Auditor gave the State Treasurer’s office a “Good” rating in its audit.  See the audit here.

The audit did, though, question some salary raises…

Auditor: The State Treasurer's Office (STO) provided salary increases to some employees that were not provided to other state employees. In addition to a 2 percent cost of living adjustment in July 2012 (an increase provided to state employees paid less than $70,000 per year), the State Treasurer provided significant additional salary increases to four senior level and capitol staff during fiscal year 2013. These additional salary increases totaled approximately $38,000 annually, and represented annual increases of approximately 12 to 23 percent for these four employees.

Treasurer:  The Auditor's finding regarding salary increases acknowledges that, pursuant to Section 30.120RSMo, the State Treasurer has the authority to establish employee compensation. All salaries and salary increases in the Treasurer's Office are within its appropriation authority and are well within, often below, comparable positions in state government. Unlike other state agencies, the State Treasurer's Office does not utilize automatic career advancements, such as step or merit increases. Instead, the general philosophy of the office is to hire new employees at a lower salary and then increase an employee's salary after, when possible, he or she has demonstrated a solid and high quality work performance… The ability to retain employees who exhibit excellence is fundamental to any organization's performance...

Auditor: The audit finding recognizes the State Treasurer's authority to provide raises to staff. However, individual raises of 12 to 23 percent appear somewhat unreasonable, especially when not accompanied by contemporaneously prepared documentation of the reasons for the raises and how the amounts were determined.

Adams Talked About Running with Ellinger

From the in-box, a press release announcing former University City Mayor Joe Adams’ kick-off event for House 86…

After hearing from various supporters, discussing with family members, and conversing at length with his longtime friend Rep. Rory Ellinger before his untimely passing, Joe Adams, the city’s mayor from 1996 to 2010, is running for state representative in the 86th District.  Having served for more than 35 years as a council member and mayor of University City, Joe is ready to bring his public service experience to the Missouri Legislature.

Carol Hearts Rand

From Politico over the weekend, an article about Rand Paul as a possible presidential candidate in 2016, quotes Missouri Republican Party State Chair Ed Martin.   See it here

Missouri Chairman Ed Martin said Paul quickly sold out the party’s Lincoln Day dinner in Springfield. Martin was amazed at how it was not just 500 libertarian true-believers who filled a ballroom, but people from every wing of the party.  “He’s a mainstream candidate,” Martin said. “A big question for 2016 is who can draw new people in. Rand has an attraction … My wife’s not a political person, but she likes Rand a lot.”

Filing News

David Knisley, a Democrat, withdrew from the House 63 race.  He was running against Republican incumbent Rep. Bryan Spencer.

Al Faulstich filed to run as a Republican in House 92.  The incumbent is Democratic Rep. Genise Montecillo.

Help Wanted

University City, Missouri Chamber of Commerce seeks an Executive Director.   “Candidates must possess strong communication, organization and leadership skills, and be self-motivated, with a high degree of enthusiasm and professionalism. Salary is competitive and negotiable…” See ad here.

Lobbyist Registrations

From the Gate Way Group website:

Andrew B Blunt and Jay Reichard added Dairy Farmers of America.

Joe Maxwell added Humane Society of the United States.

L. P. (Louis) Hamilton deleted BJC.

$5K+ Contributions

AFSCME MO People Public Employees Organized To Promote Legislative Equality - $103,750 from AFSCME.

Friends of Tom Schweich - $111,111 from David Humphreys.

Note on Money: Schweich is unopposed for auditor, so this looks like 2016 Gov money from Humphreys.   Obviously the check amount is odd.