MOScout Daily Update: Senate Conservative Caucus Steps Forward - Bridge Project List Questoned - DOR Questioned and more....

Conservative Caucus

Six Republican senators, forming the Senate Conservative Caucus, will hold a press availability this morning to talk about their legislative priorities.  The senators are: Eric Burlison, Bill Eigel, Denny Hoskins, Andrew Koenig, Cindy O’Laughlin, and Bob Onder.

What It Means

A bloc of six senators from the majority party united in principle against legislation is sufficient to kill legislation in the upper chamber through filibusters or threatened filibusters.

But… from conversations it appears to me that the aim of this group is not to form a veto mechanism on the body.  Rather it’s to advance conservative legislation – or at least bend legislation in that direction.

And

My understanding is that former Sen. Jim Lembke is not a staffer for this caucus.  Rather he is staffing three of the six senators (Burlison, Eigel, and Hoskins).

 

Budget Grilling: Bonding

In the Senate Appropriations hearing yesterday, Budget Director Dan Haug told lawmakers that Governor Mike Parson’s bonding proposal will require a concurrent resolution from the legislature.

This is an important detail I hadn’t realized.

A stand alone resolution is much easier to kill than one provision stuffed into a huge budget.  It gives leverage to legislators who can stop the resolution without derailing the rest of the budget.

And

One concern about the bonding proposal was that it’s light on projects in the major metropolitan areas.  Sen. Bill Eigel said this “imbalance” needed to be addressed before he could support it.

And both Sens. Jamilah Nasheed and Kiki Curls voiced the concern that St. Louis and Kansas City have little to gain from the list of projects that the bonding would accomplish.

What It Means

The Department of Transportation defended the list saying that the criteria was to pick smaller projects that could be completed.  The bridges in metropolitan areas are more expensive to improve due to more complicated engineering circumstances.

However, Eigel rightly wondered whether the economic bang wouldn’t be bigger to relieve the big transportation bottlenecks in the highest trafficked areas of the state as opposed to small projects in low population areas.

And Democrats might chafe at that rationale as they get wise to the equation at play here: smaller bridges = rural bridges = Republican districts.

 

Budget Grilling: Revenue

Meanwhile in the House Budget Committee yesterday, Department of Revenue Director Joel Walters walked the committee through the timeline that has led to a $500+ million shortfall in state revenues for this fiscal year.

The committee expressed varying degrees of outrage and disappointment over the lackluster public awareness effort the department has undertaken.  Walters did a poor job expressing that he genuinely shares the committee’s concern that Missouri taxpayers will be facing an April surprise due to the DOR’s lack of communication. 

Rep. Peter Merideth articulated the problem succinctly: if we’re $500 million short now, and we expect that we will be even when April taxes are paid, Missourians are facing an unexpected $500 million tax wallop in a few months.  Zonkers!

Given the magnitude of this pickle-duffer I’m actually surprised there haven’t been calls for Walters to resign.

We’ll see….

 

STL Local Elections

Lobbyist/lawyer Dave Sweeney breaks down St. Louis City’s March primary races: president of the board of aldermen, and aldermanic races in the even numbered wards.  See it here.

 

MOChamber Launches InternConnect

The Missouri Chamber launched InternConnect, which is a platform to connect students and businesses. Take a look here.

It looks very similar to Indiana’s.

 

Go For Gas Tax Again?

KC Star editorial board writes that Governor Mike Parson should try to raise the gas tax again because voters were confused.  See it here

I guess that’s possible, but I think the more likely analysis simpler: voters didn’t think it was a good enough use for their tax dollars. 

What It Means

The inside the building bipartisan consensus is that roads are deteriorating faster than we can maintain them and it’s important to the state economy to invest in infrastructure, BUT outside the building, Missourians don’t see a crisis. 

 

Young Teaching Basics

Former Post-Dispatch reporter Virginia Young posted on Facebook… Some retirement news: I’m teaching a section of Journ2100, Introduction to News Writing, at Mizzou this semester. Old-timers may remember it as News 105. It’s a grind, with weekly in-class writing assignments, numerous outside writing projects and regular AP style, grammar and news quizzes. Even so, when I was on the Journalism School faculty in the late 1980s, I loved teaching this course because it’s one of the first journalism classes Mizzou students can take, they’re usually anxious to get going and it’s a chance to help them learn the fundamentals. While today’s media world is vastly different from the pre-Internet era of 30 years ago, the need has only grown for basic reporting, researching and fact-checking skills, along with the ability to write clearly on a tight deadline. I met my students yesterday and they get that….

 

Birthdays

Happy birthdays to Travis Brown, Crystal Williams, Jim Hansen, and Bill Skaggs.