More Legalization Bills Filed in Jeff City
February 8, 2014

Post Dispatch:

Proponents have added a second front in their campaign to legalize recreational marijuana in Missouri, with several legislative bills in addition to the pending petition drive to change the state constitution.

One bill filed in the Legislature last week calls for legalization, under a state licensing system for growers and sellers and a 25 percent tax on the product.

HB1659, by Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, would allow one marijuana retailer per 2,500 people.

For St. Louis County, with its roughly one million residents, that would mean it could have about 400 retailers. St. Louis city, population about 318,000, could have almost 130.

A second bill pending in Jefferson City, HB1325, would lower the penalty for possessing small amounts of marijuana, in much the way St. Louis did last year. Under the bill, possession of less than 35 grams would prompt a summons to appear in court rather than an arrest, and the penalty would be capped at $250 with no jail sentence.

A third pending bill, HB1324, would legalize marijuana specifically for medical purposes, as Illinois recently did.

The bills appear unlikely to gain any traction in the Republican-controlled Legislature

Lawmakers Push to Restrict Governor’s Power over Budget
February 4, 2014

(AP) – A Missouri House committee is considering legislation to curb the governor’s budget power.

A constitutional amendment proposed by House Republican Todd Richardson would let the Legislature override budget cuts enacted by the governor with a two-thirds vote. Currently, the governor can control the rate at which appropriations are spent and reduce spending when revenues are below the estimates upon which the budget is based.

The House General Laws Committee scheduled a hearing on the proposal Tuesday

There have budget disputes between Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and the Republican-controlled Legislature. Nixon froze $400 million in the current year’s budget while citing concerns that lawmakers would override his veto of a tax cut. The veto was sustained and much of those funds are released

Former Senator Bond Now Pushing for Missouri Medicaid Expansion
January 25, 2014

(AP) – As a Republican senator, Kit Bond voted against the federal health care overhaul. Now lobbying for a prominent business group, Bond is pushing Republican legislators in his home state of Missouri to embrace a key provision of the law by expanding Medicaid eligibility.

Bond said Friday that the potential to reap billions of dollars more in federal funding is simply too important for Missouri to pass up, especially for hospitals that otherwise could get stuck with higher costs for treating the uninsured.

“While I was and still am one of the loudest opponents of Obamacare, I’m getting involved in Medicaid reform now because if our State sits on the sidelines, I’m concerned hospitals in rural and inner city Missouri won’t survive,” Bond said in an email.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry declined to say how much it is paying Bond’s consulting firm. But chamber President Dan Mehan said Bond already has met with Republican legislative leaders and Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon about the potential to expand Medicaid eligibility.

“He understands the issues very well, and we’re trying to capitalize on his stature, his relationships that he has and his reputation as a one of the best statesmen that this state will ever have,” Mehan said.

Bond voted against the federal health care law when Congress passed it four years ago. He said in December 2009 that President Barack Obama’s health care plan would fail to lower costs or improve the quality of health care. He also criticized the legislation as being “chock full of political payoffs” for Democratic senators so that the party could obtain the votes necessary to stop a Republican filibuster.

Bond chose not to seek re-election in 2010 after serving in the Senate for 24 years. He previously served as state auditor and two terms as governor.

Bond’s consulting firm said he has long supported a strong social safety net and has consistently fought for Missouri to receive a healthy share of federal funding. As a senator, for example, Bond worked to increase the amount of money Missouri’s highway department received from federal fuel taxes.

Even with Bond’s involvement, Medicaid expansion remains a longshot in Missouri.

Over the past year, Missouri’s Republican-led Legislature has repeatedly rejected proposals from Nixon and Democratic lawmakers to extend Medicaid eligibility to an estimated 300,000 additional lower-income adults. States that expand Medicaid eligibility under the terms of Obama’s health law can receive enhanced federal Medicaid payments for those new enrollees

Missouri Lawmakers Work on Student Transfer Law, KC School Chief Warns of Financial Distress
January 23, 2014

. (AP) – Legislation revising Missouri’s school transfer law for unaccredited school districts received a public airing Wednesday as the Senate Education Committee during a public hearing started work on what could prove to be the marquee education issue confronting state lawmakers.

The 1993 transfer law requires districts without state accreditation to pay tuition and provide transportation for students who want to attend an accredited school within the same county or a bordering one. It has prompted concerns about schools’ ability to control incoming students and is creating financial problems for unaccredited districts.

About 2,000 students have left the unaccredited Normandy and Riverview Gardens districts in St. Louis County. More could follow suit in Kansas City after the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the transfer law in a case focused on that area and the State Board of Education denied an accreditation upgrade.

Kansas City Superintendent R. Stephen Green told the Senate Education Committee the transfer law could thrust his school system into financial distress.

The Senate Education Committee focused Wednesday on measures each filed by several St. Louis-area lawmakers.

“This is the year for us to come together and recognize that we need to do things that we can get done,” said Republican Sen. Eric Schmitt, of St. Louis County.

The St. Louis-area lawmakers said the legislation is a starting point. Under their proposal, districts receiving transfer students would set policies for class sizes and student-teacher ratios. The State Board of Education would assess individual school buildings within unaccredited districts, and the first option for students in unaccredited districts would be going to an accredited school within their home district.

In addition, accredited school systems could operate charter schools in unaccredited districts, and unaccredited school districts could approve longer school days and academic years.

The Senate Education Committee plans to consider other proposals dealing with the transfer law, among them a bill filed by the committee’s chairman, Sen. David Pearce. His bill would include the creation of a “statewide achievement district” to oversee struggling schools.

The most active questioner during Wednesday’s hearing was Democratic Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, who also has filed an education bill that addresses student transfers. Chappelle-Nadal, of University City, raised questions about several issues, including finances and charter schools.

Missouri’s three school districts currently unaccredited are Normandy, Riverview Gardens and Kansas City public schools. Another 11 districts have provisional accreditation

75 MPH in Outstate Missouri?
January 7, 2014

(AP) – A southwest Missouri lawmaker wants to let motorists push the pedal down a little farther when they’re driving on rural highways.

Rep. Mike Kelley, a Republican from Lamar, pre-filed a bill Monday to raise the maximum speed limit to 75 mph in rural parts of the state. The state’s current limit is 70 mph.

His measure would apply to cars and trucks traveling on parts of interstates and other four-lane roads that lie outside urban areas.

The change would put Missouri in line with Kansas’ rural highway limit. Missouri’s current speed limit was put in place after Congress repealed the 55 mph federal limit in 1995.

Missouri lawmakers are scheduled to begin their annual session Wednesday

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