Monday, March 25, 2013

Legislative Capacity

There are a larger number of “big-ticket” items in this legislative session.


For example, in addition to the state’s budget, there’s the sales tax increase, the billion-dollar bond issuance, the ISRS utility legislation, education reform, workers compensations reform and Second Injury Fund fix, Medicaid expansion/transformation, and of course the ever-present tax credit reform, not to mention the various anti-labor proposals...


The conventional wisdom is that there’s a limited legislative capacity to deal with big issues.  The attention that they require is part of it.  But also the big issues often are “tough votes” for legislators.  They involve sacrifice or politically touchy situations.  So leadership paces these items in a way that they can be digested without rebellion.  One or two a session.


I wonder if this isn’t a self-perpetuating myth.


The big issues are ones that arouse objections.  And in the legislative arena, the most popular way to successfully defeat a proposal is to stall, postpone and delay until time runs out.  One way to achieve that is to keep asking questions, haggling over details, finding disagreements big and small to be negotiated away – or on and on.


The months of work on these big issues culminates in May when there’s a log-jam (aka train-wreck) of legislation, and only enough time in the day to dot i’s, cross t’s and see if it can cross the finish line.


The solution to this seems to be to push harder earlier.


The tax credit reform appears to be on the slow track.  But maybe there should be some shoulder work on the workers comp/SIF legislation in the next couple of weeks, and quick action marrying the bonding and sales tax, if those are to escape the end-of-year death trap.



Barnes’ Hurdle

Aside from the legislative obstacle course that Rep. Jay Barnes’ Medicaid transformation bill faces, there’s the big hurdle at the end of the road… getting the federal waiver.


From the fiscal note on his bill (see it here): “Oversight notes the Department of Social Services (DSS) has not provided estimates of costs or savings for several provisions of this proposal because of guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). In that guidance, CMS has stated that if a state's expansion of Medicaid does not include specified populations with incomes up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), the state will not receive enhanced Medicaid reimbursement rates. As a result of this guidance, DSS assumes Missouri will not be granted waivers that would provide for the receipt of enhanced Medicaid rates because the expansion in this proposal does not go to the levels specified by the Affordable Care Act. Therefore, DSS assumes the programs currently in place would continue without change.”



Jay Barnes posted a Q&A on his legislation on his blog.  See it here.



MO Medicaid Coaltion Gives Yellow Light on HB700

Careful now, don’t act like you like it too much, that will raise Republican antennae…


“While Missourians across the state are encouraged by the continued legislative debate on expanding Medicaid, Representative Barnes’ current proposal falls short in several areas,” said Kevin Stamps, Missouri Medicaid Coalition campaign manager. “Most importantly, the General Assembly must expand Medicaid eligibility to 138% of the federal poverty level to qualify for federal matching funds provided for in the federal health law. Full expansion is a win-win-win proposition. Half-measures are lose-lose-lose propositions that will cover fewer Missourians, cost the state of Missouri more money, and increase the size of the federal deficit.”



PSC to Wade Into ISRS Debate

Late last week, the Public Service Commission issued an order, at the behest of the general assembly, it investigate the impact from SB 207.  See it here.


“The member of the General Assembly has asked the Commission for analysis and information on the following: The safety, adequacy and reliability of Missouri’s current electric infrastructure; Identification of electric infrastructure problems, costs and needs; Rate impact of the implementation of Senate Bill 207; Electric utilities’ financial need for legislation; Due process and appropriate procedure in respect to the new rate mechanisms proposed by Senate Bill 207; Other information which the PSC finds relevant to this legislation.


“In addition to the information specifically requested, the Commission intends to address these additional matters: A comparison of the provisions of Senate Bill 207 and House Bill 398, and the various versions thereof, including the provision of House Committee Substitute for House Bill 398 that allows for a 45-day prefiling requirement to allow additional time for review, and any other differences the commenter deems relevant; An evaluation of the cost tracking mechanism contained in the proposed legislation that is not directly related to infrastructure investments…


“A comment hearing is scheduled for April 8, 2013, beginning at 9:00 a.m. at the Commission’s office at the Governor Office Building, 200 Madison Street, Jefferson City, Missouri, Room 305.


“The Commission intends to issue its report to the legislature no later than Wednesday, April 17, 2013.”



McCaskill: Yes to Gay Marriage

In a blog post entitled “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13,” Sen. Claire McCaskill stepped out for gay marriage.  Here’s her post…


“The question of marriage equality is a great American debate. Many people, some with strong religious faith, believe that marriage can only exist between a man and a woman. Other people, many of whom also have strong religious faith, believe that our country should not limit the commitment of marriage to some, but rather all Americans, gay and straight should be allowed to fully participate in the most basic of family values.


“I have come to the conclusion that our government should not limit the right to marry based on who you love. While churches should never be required to conduct marriages outside of their religious beliefs, neither should the government tell people who they have a right to marry.


“My views on this subject have changed over time, but as many of my gay and lesbian friends, colleagues and staff embrace long term committed relationships, I find myself unable to look them in the eye without honestly confronting this uncomfortable inequality. Supporting marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples is simply the right thing to do for our country, a country founded on the principals of liberty and equality.


“Good people disagree with me. On the other hand, my children have a hard time understanding why this is even controversial. I think history will agree with my children.”



Senate Hearings of Interest

Commerce Committee, Tuesday 1:30pm, Senate Lounge

A few bills relating to DNR procedures, and two renewable energy fixes.


General Laws, Tuesday 3pm, SCR 1

A few Nieves bills, and SB 358 – Holsman’s hemp cultivation bill!


Education Committee, Wednesday 1:30pm, Senate Lounge

SB 437 (Pearce) creates a model for funding the state's public institutions of higher education


House Hearings of Interest

Government Oversight and Accountability Committee, Monday, 9:30, HR7

The OBarnesCare Transformation Act.


Tourism and Natural Resources Committee, Monday 1pm, HR1

HB604 – DNR bill.

Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities Committee, Tuesday Noon, HR1

HB 571 (Jill Schupp) - establishes Nathan's Law that changes the laws regarding licensing requirements for child-care facilities.


Elections Committee, Tuesday 8:15am, HR5            

HB 588 (John Diehl) changes the primary election date to the first Tuesday after the third Monday of June.


Government Oversight and Accountability Committee, Tuesday 5pm, HR5

HB 787 (Todd Richardson) - prohibits the Department of Revenue from retaining copies of source documents used to obtain driver's licenses and nondriver's licenses.

Workforce Development and Workplace Safety Committee, Wednesday 8am, HR5

HB 692 – yet another prevailing wage bill.



Lobbyist Registrations

From the Pelopidas website:


Jeffery N Brooks, William Gamble, Jorgen Schlemeier, and Sarah Topp added Stowers Institute for Medical Research, and Drury Development Corporation.


Steven Tilley added Gardner Capital.



$5K+ Contributions

Freedom PAC - $6,000 from Northland Anesthesiology Inc.

Continue to Care Committee - $20,000 from Truman Medical Centers.

Missourians for Equal Credit Opportunity - $81,480 from Missourians for Responsible Government.

Professional Firefighters of Tri-County PAC - $6,000 from Fenton Firefighters Community Outreach.

Progress KC PAC - $10,000 from Continue to Care Committee.

Progress KC PAC - $10,000 from Keep KC Jobs.

Freedom Incorporated - $15,000 from Continue to Care Committee.

Citizens for Safe and Accessible Arch and Public Park Initiative In Collaboration with Civic Progress Action Committee - $32,414 from Washington University in Saint Louis.




Happy birthdays to Sen. Doug Libla (61), Sen. Jason Holsman (37), and Rep. Robert Cornejo (the big 3-0).