Thursday, February 21, 2013

Koster To Legislature: $130 Million Coin Toss

With little fanfare, Attorney General Chris Koster sent a letter to the legislature last month warning that the state may forfeit “between 21% and 100% of the $130 million Tobacco Settlement payment the State previously received for calendar year 2003.  To repay that obligation, any forfeiture will be automatically deducted from the $130 million (projected) Tobacco Settlement payment Missouri anticipates receiving in April 2014.  The purpose of this letter is to bring this serious risk to Missouri’s FY 2014 consensus revenue estimate to your attention…


“As part of the Tobacco Settlement, every State agreed to enact a model escrow statute requiring Non-Participating Manufacturers – cigarette manufacturers that did not sign the Tobacco Settlement – to make annual escrow deposits…”   Missouri hasn’t enacted such a statute, and is the only state which isn’t in compliance.


The letter continues… “The Participating Manufacturers’ claim against Missouri to recoup part or all of the 2003 Tobacco Settlement payment will go to verdict sometime next fall.  The Office of Attorney General advised your predecessors every year for the last decade that their legislative inaction could eventually harm the State.  While we hope our legal defenses will be successfully, we estimate an even chance that the arbitration panel will find Missouri did not ‘diligently enforce’ its escrow statute in 2003…”


Will the legislature accept this $130 million coin toss?  Or will they address it?  Sen. Kurt Schaefer has a bill to close this loophole.  See it here.  But previous attempts to pass it have been in vain, (“This act is identical to SB 629 (2012), SB 375 (2011) and HB 491 (2011).”) thanks to the effective lobbying of Ron Leone and Andy Arnold.



Tax Amnesty

The House passed “tax amnesty” yesterday and sent it to the Senate.  See it here.


Last year a number of senators stood up and stopped the bill.  Their concerns seemed to hinge mainly on fairness, and the concept of a “moral hazard,” that in continuing to give delinquent payers a free pass, you’re encouraging the behavior in the future.


To counter this claim, HB 55 states that any beneficiary of amnesty cannot participate in future amnesties.  And of course the real sweetener is the fiscal note.  See it here.



Weber Leaves Carpenters

Political director Shannon Weber resigned from her position at the Carpenters Union this week – as evidenced by the fact that she deleted her registration for the organization.


Weber won good reviews from legislators – and obviously organized labor has done very well in the last few session given the increasingly hostile political landscape from the Republican supermajority.


It’ll be interesting to see where Weber lands, but also to see who takes her role with the Carpenters and whether her exit presages a change in strategy.


Organized labor’s recent success in stalling or blocking noxious legislation was due to many factors.  They’ve leaning on their backstop in the governor’s office, but also cultivated Republican friends, while being careful to flex their muscles only when it would have its maximum impact.


For example – rather than mobilize their grassroots infrastructure early in session when things look dire and there are a half-dozen battles to fight, they’ve resisted that temptation.  Rather they’ve displayed the discipline to let the legislative process narrow down the number of actual bills that are a danger.  Then when they the target is in their sights, they unleash their members to pelt legislators with letters, phone-calls and visits, amid the usual efforts to create divisions between legislative factions.


Or maybe they’ve just been lucky…



Nixon Pushes on Medicaid

“Gov. Jay Nixon today visited the St. Charles County Economic Development Center to discuss how his plan to bring the dollars Missourians send to Washington back to strengthen Medicaid in Missouri will benefit taxpayers, businesses and the economy. In the first three years, the Governor's proposal would bring $5.7 billion to Missouri and provide health coverage to an additional 300,000 Missourians, at no cost to the state.”


But Bigger News in the Medicaid Battle

“Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott, one of biggest critics of Obamacare, has agreed to expand Medicaid coverage in his home state, accepting one of the key elements of the health care law, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Scott's move to allow the federal government's expansion of Medicaid is a big win for implementation of Obamacare in one of the biggest health care markets in the country. Scott, a former health care executive, campaigned hard against the law when he ran for governor in 2010.”



Medicaid on tap next week in the legislature.  Minority Leader Jake Hummel gets a hearing on his Medicaid expansion bill in Rep. Jay Barnes’ Accountability Committee.


And then we’re expecting to see Barnes’ “transformation” bill later in the week.



Missouri White House Interns

The White House Internship Program announced yesterday the participants for the Spring 2013 session. Here are those with a Missouri connection:


Chelsea Denlow – Hometown: St. Louis, MO; The Colorado College, CO.


Henry Shull – Hometown: Warrensburg, MO; Harvard University, MA.



Lobbyist Registrations

From the Pelopidas website:


Rodney Boyd, Brian Grace, and Kelvin Simmons added McDaniel Hazley Group.



$5K+ Contributions

MO Republican Party - $10,000 from Drury Development Corporation.

Slay for Mayor - $10,000 from AT&T.




Happy birthdays to St. Louis alderman Donna Baringer (the big 5-0), former state senator Harry Kennedy (61), and former state representative B.J. Marsh (73).