May 1, 2013

Senate Debates Tort Reform

The Senate spent hours yesterday on HB 112 which would reinstate medical malpractice caps in the aftermath of a Missouri Supreme Court ruling that stuck them down.

Amid the hours of droning, there were flashes of true drama.  One came early when Sen. Rob Schaaf, presiding on the dais, made a “fast close.”  That is, he recognized the bill sponsor to close debate quickly when there were senators who were making their way to their desks to speak. 

This drew outrage from Sen. Eric Schmitt who called it “an embarrassment,” and Democratic Sen. Ryan McKenna who said such behavior would erode the foundations of the institution.

Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, Floor Leader Ron Richard and Terry Spieler, the Secretary of the Senate, huddled briefly and determined to unwind the cloture motion, and let debate continue.

An hour or so later Sen. Kurt Schaefer accused Schaaf of a conflict of interest on the legislation, suggesting he should recluse himself.  Schaaf is “Chairman of the Board of the Missouri Doctors Mutual Insurance Company.”  Schaaf retorted that Schaefer – a lawyer – should recuse himself.  And once again Dempsey stepped in to ask the participants to cool off.

Richard Blinks?

But the real question is why at 10:30PM, after eight and half hours of debate, Floor Leader Ron Richard gave up.  The bill was set aside, and the Senate adjourned.  One theory is that the compromise Richard imagined was in Schaefer’s amendment.  When it failed (13-21), and Dems appeared ready to speak through the night, Richard just pulled the plug.

And

I started writing a column about state politics for the St. Louis Business Journal nine years ago.  The very first one I wrote was in February 2004… about tort reform.  Relive it here.  By the way, it wasn’t until the next session – 2005 – with a newly elected Republican Governor Matt Blunt that tort reform got done.

Education Bill Coming to the House Floor?

Yesterday the House Republicans caucused and discussed SB 125 which is the current incarnation of the speaker’s education reform agenda. 

It’s said that Speaker Tim Jones gave an emotional appeal for it during caucus, but that their whip count is stuck where it was for HB 631 when they netted 55 votes.  Two sources say the Republican count is at 42 aye votes, another source says 50, and a fourth source says it’s a bit higher.

It’s unclear why – if positions are largely calcified on the issue – Jones would bring another bill up for defeat…

StudentsFirst Email Blast

“The Missouri House of Representatives is voting on a bill TOMORROW that would bolster every teacher, principal, school and district in our Show-Me-State. SB 125 would support districts in the development of meaningful evaluation systems for teachers and principals so we could identify our best educators and help those that need improvement. In addition, the bill would make sure that our best teachers have job security even in tough economic times…” 

Look Ahead

Kinder in 8-CD?

Folks are split on the future of Peter Kinder.  Some think he will primary (Congressman) Jason Smith in 2014 – and his deep roots in southeast Missouri will power him to a victory.  Others see him a “team player” who wouldn’t go down that path.

Because he’d have to raise money in smaller increments according to federal campaign finance limits, Kinder would probably have to start a campaign committee soon after Smith’s special election this summer.  If that happened, Kinder’s long-time consigliore David Barklage, who’s now helping Smith, would presumably have to flip over to Kinder’s side.

Look for a Kinder decision by Labor Day…

Aycock for LG

Barry Aycock, the potential Democratic statewide candidate in 2016 about whom I wrote yesterday, is said to be interested in lieutenant governor.

Jones Versus Schaefer?

The recent back-and-forth on the budget between Speaker Tim Jones and Senate Appropriations Chair Kurt Schaefer was thought by some to be escalated by their competing 2016 ambitions for attorney general.  But one observe with campaign experience thinks it’d be no contest.  Tim Jones, he says, can’t be outflanked on the right.  “He’s a birther.  His name’s on the lawsuit!”  Add his $700+ war-chest which will only grow fatter and you have an unstoppable Republican primary candidate.

Apple and the Bonding Issue

Yesterday Apple issued $17 billion dollars in new bonds.  They already have something like $140 billion in cash on-hand.  So why borrow?  Because it’s free.  In fact if you get a modest rise in inflation during the next decade, lenders are paying folks to borrow money now. What does all this mean?  Missouri would be stupid not to take advantage of the crazy low rates and pursue the bond issuance that Rep. Chris Kelly is advocating.

Bits

Virginia Young looks at the current effort for tax credit reform.  See it here.  Inside the building the consensus is: not gonna happen.  No appetite on the House side.  And with the economy rebounding and the budget looking better, there’s no urgency to this matter...

See the House conferees on budget conference committees here.  The odd three-member delegation (two Republicans and one Democrat) will take some getting used to… The point of it is that House Republicans could prevent any alliance between House Dems and Senate Republicans…

Vince Currao, the Democratic fundraiser who took off last cycle and disappeared from the political scene, is back.  He was walking the halls yesterday, presumably lining up clients for the 2014 cycle…

David Axelrod, former counsel to President Barack Obama, will speak at Webster University in St. Louis on May 10.  Make reservations to see him here.

The “seersucker caucus” is rumored to be headed to 18 today… but… Sens. Maria Chappelle-Nadal and Jamilah Nasheed may be sporting the same green seersucker suit… Awkward!

Lobbyist Registrations

From the Pelopidas website:

Mark J Bruns added Strong Consulting Group LLC.

James E Farrell added City of St. Louis.

Daniel W McCarthy added Veolia Water North America Operating Services LLC.

Steven Tilley added Major Brands Premium Beverage.

Mark J Bruns, Gary Burton, Neal English, James Foley, Andrew Foley, Dawn Nicklas, Chris Liese, and Don Soph deleted Cognosante LLC.

John C. Cozad deleted Grantham University and City of North Kansas City.

James E Farrell, and Mike Grote deleted City of North Kansas City.

Birthdays

Happy birthday to Bubs Hohulin!

Condolences

Condolences to Brian “Schmidty” Schmidt on the passing of his great-grandmother, Rose Julian.  She died at age 98, having lived a full life that included a late marriage… At age 94 she walked down the aisle with another nonagenarian.  Together their combined age set a Guinness Book of World Record for oldest newlyweds.