Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Kraus Tax Cut Advances

The Senate worked until about midnight last night, spending the majority of its time on HB 253, which is its revision of Sen. Will Kraus’ tax cut bill.  It differed from the last version in that it dropped the sales tax (a demand of the governor’s office), added amnesty, and clarified the phase-in language to make sure that the cuts only occurred within an environment of continued economic growth.

Budget To Hit Health Providers

Social service advocates were walking the halls with worried voices yesterday on account of the budget conference committee.  The budget now reconfigures the funding mechanism for several popular programs including funds for the federally qualified health center, and First Steps (which gave Governor Matt Blunt headaches a decade ago).

According to the advocates, many of these programs would now be paid from the yet-established fund envisioned in Pro Tem Tom Dempsey’s SB 350.  That bill would eliminate the renter’s circuit breaker tax credit.  The governor’s office has said it would veto the bill if it’s not part of a broader tax credit reform package.

It appears a veto of that bill would seem to defund several important social service programs. But one Democrat I spoke to says that the governor’s office will probably conjure up some options to parry the cuts, for example perhaps a line-item veto aimed at the funding source provision.  

Bottom line: it’s far too early to say that Jay Nixon – and his many lawyers – are “boxed in” on the issue…

Casino Credit

HB 747 which would allow casinos to extend lines of credit to their customers (see the Virginia Young story here) failed to get out of Sen. Brad Lager’s Commerce Committee when it tied 4-4.

The votes are there, they just weren’t there.

One supporter of the bill says that Sens. Kurt Schaefer and Jason Holsman – who were both absent – are both Aye votes.  The Committee meets again on Thursday, and one would expect that supporters will look for one of the No voters to move to reconsider so it can move out of committee.  The Nos were: Sens. Mike Cunningham, Ed Emery, Wayne Wallingford, and Gina Walsh.

Dixon Drama

Floor Leader Ron Richard was moving through the formal calendar and senators were laying their bills on the informal calendar when HB 375 came up.  Sen. Bob Dixon is the senate handler.  Not wanting to lay the bill over, Dixon asked the Senate to stand at ease so he could talk to Richard.  Standing at ease requires unanimous consent.  Richard objected.

So Dixon spoke publicly, asking Richard if the bill was being laid over so it could be “used as leverage,” presumably to help move other legal bills, like the medical malpractice bill which has stalled.

Richard replied that it was.  Dixon asked for a “guarantee” that the bill would receive some floor time later.  Richard replied that “there are no guarantees in this room,” a somewhat odd reply since there are deals and guarantees made in the Senate every day.

Dixon – in a move of chutzpah and frankly as close to anarchy as the Senate gets – said he would not lay his bill over.  Richard then attempted to lay the bill over, but that was stifled by the beloved Terry Spieler who likes the chamber to follow the Senate rules.

In a momentary lapse into a schoolyard fit, Richard moved that the Senate adjourn.  Pro Tem Tom Dempsey meanwhile leapt into political crisis management mode, slowly talking Dixon off the ledge.

Dixon laid the bill over, Richard withdrew his motion to adjourn, and the Senate saved a day’s work.  But before he exited Dixon angrily denounced the lack of courtesy in not allowing the body to stand at ease, and told Richard, “there’s nothing in this bill that the trial attorneys want!”

The Back Story

This was a boiling over of a long-simmering clash.  Richard, it’s said, has been disappointed that Dixon as chair of the Judiciary Committee never produced a medical malpractice bill.  When no Senate bill made it out of committee, the House’s medical malpractice bill was routed to Sen. Scott Rupp’s Small Business Committee.  Rupp moved it out of his committee at a deliberate pace to get it to the Senate floor.

Dixon apparently feels slighted that Richard doesn’t respect that he works in his committee to produce compromises which can come to the floor without long debates.  Meanwhile Richard feels like Dixon doesn’t respect his boss: the clock that hangs over session…

Liquor Franchise Bits

Flotron Follow-Up

In reply to yesterday’s bit about Flotron and McIntosh “working for booze” on the bill, they note that they already were working on the bill for Diageo, “the largest liquor company in the world.” So why not add another client?

One compared it to helping the little guy, Pinckney, who was being chased through the jungle by a lion (Major Brands), and naturally ask for aid from the dude who was standing there with a club (Flotron/Mac).

Another more humorously explained, “Brian Grace issued a pro bono challenge, we accepted (with a little booze on the side).”

Beer Folk Enter?

From the May 6 edition of Beer Business Daily: “The Missouri Small Brewers Guild representing 20 Missouri brewers and the Missouri Beer Wholesalers Association hashed out an agreement on craft beer carve-out language added to the bill to get them on board…” 

Vehicles?

Because the much ballyhooed franchise bill hasn’t even been up for debate in either chamber and we’re running low on days, folks assume the language will be attached to a vehicle.  One possibility is Sen. Eric Schmitt’s SB 114 now on the House calendar.  Another might be Sen. Kurt Schaefer’s SB 121 which was voted out of House Rules last week.

2014 Rumors

It’s said that Congressman Lacy Clay is seeking a primary opponent for Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal

And the latest rumor for a Dem to run against Tom Schweich: Minority Leader Jake Hummel.   Hummel himself seems at least partially amused by the rumor.  The mention of it at his fundraiser yesterday raised a few eyebrows, but did it raised the number of the checks?…

Shaaf Apologizes

Sen. Rob Schaaf apologized on the Senate floor yesterday for his “fast close” which caused a little drama last week.  He said that he’d been thinking about it a lot, and realized he could have done a better job, and should have stopped his “close” mid-sentence when Sen. Kurt Schaefer asked to be recognized.  It was a nice step to healing in an increasingly testy chamber…

Weaker in DC

Roll Call says Missouri’s clout in Congress has diminished.  Read it here

Pull Quote: “Missouri’s clout ranking dropped a dozen notches in the past four years, to No. 30, in part because it lost a House seat in reapportionment, in part because House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton was swept out in the 2010 GOP tide, and in part because Roy Blunt gave up his considerable influence in the House GOP leadership to start from scratch again in the Senate, where he took the place of the pretty-powerful-after-24-years Christopher S. Bond.”

Bits

Some Republican House caucus members have been rolling their eyes at some email forwards that Rep. Rick Stream has sent.  One apparently made its way to St. Louis’ Fox New TV station and became the basis of a news story.  See it here.

Post-Dispatch reports that Ken Waller announced that he’s running for a second term as Jefferson County Executive.  Read it here.  And Sen. Ryan McKenna acknowledged that he’s considering challenging Waller.

It’s countdown time for Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives’ legislative coordinator, Chris Weber.  She leaves the Capitol hub at the end of session to finish her nursing studies.

Ameren apparently hasn’t given up the ghost… CEO Warner Baxter was walking the halls yesterday…

ShowMe Institute’s David Stokes blogs about DESE’s presentations on common core.  See it here.  He reports that the DESE officials refused to take questions and say, “If you are unable to follow the way we are going to hold this meeting, you’re welcome to go ahead and leave.”

Hope for the EcoDevo bill?  Pro Tem Tom Dempsey says that rather than some grand compromise, all he needs is for the overall tax credit level to be lowered.  Hear it here.  Seems doable….

Lobbyist Registrations

From the Pelopidas website:

Suzanne Loomis and Miranda W Ayotte added Primerica.

L Kent Gaines added Pinckney Bend Distillery.

Richard A McIntosh added Its Partner LLC.

Judy A Bass deleted United Healthcare Services Inc.

Donald J Hicks deleted Missouri Broadcasters Association.

Albert C Owen Jr deleted Missouri Industrial Consumers and The Boeing Company.

$5K+ Contributions

Dooley for St. Louis County - $10,000 from John Alberici.

Birthdays

Happy birthdays to Pro Tem Tom Dempsey (46), and Rep. Jeanie Lauer (59).