Among the bills that attracted the most interest in this year’s session, here’s a summary of which ones passed and which failed.
- My personal favorite: the PACE bill. It allows homeowners and businesses to take out twenty year loans for energy efficiency upgrades. The loans stay with the property and are passed on to the next owner if they sell the property. The bill requires that the savings from utilities outweigh the annual cost of the loan, so that the loans are cash flow positive from day one.
This one was a cliff hanger. Everybody liked it, but it didn’t pass until the last day of the session.
- The autistic insurance bill passed, requiring insurers to cover up to $40,000 a year for treatment of children under 18. The bill wouldn’t have passed without two years worth of pushing from Senator Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, who has an autistic son.
I appreciated hearing that Senator Joan Bray, D-University City, and Sen. Rita Days, D-St. Louis, spoke during a filibuster of the bill to negate the anti-puppy mill petition, of their approval of this bill and their disapproval of the way that Republicans have opposed health care reform. (That would include, by the way, Eric Schmitt.)
And by the way, Bray and Days filibustered the anti-anti-puppy mills bill to death. Good on ’em. Both ladies are termed out, and that’s a great loss to the Senate.
- The ethics bill, or rather the shadow of one that passed for the real thing, made it through both chambers. But even Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, couldn’t resist skewering the House for laying such an egg.
- The Parents as Teachers programs were stripped of about half their funds.
Among other bills that passed are these, a couple of them real stinkers. (For a fuller list, see the Post-Dispatch summary.)
- College scholarships – Makes state scholarships based on students’ needs equal amounts for public and private colleges and universities, beginning in 2014. (SB733)
- DWI – Adds penalties to DWI laws and encourages some DWI suspects to go to special courts. (HB1695)
- Medicaid – Lets state hire a firm to assess home-care needs for elderly and disabled people on Medicaid and makes other changes to save money in health care program for the poor. (SB1007)
- Health care vote – Sets a referendum for Aug. 2 to let Missourians voice opinions on federal health care legislation approved by Congress. (HB1764)
- Abortion – Adds regulations to Missouri’s 24-hour informed consent law. (SB793)
- Strip clubs – Regulates sexually oriented businesses and their employees. (SB586)
Among the most watched bills that failed is another mixture of sighs of relief and teeth grinding frustration.
- The bill that contained language to take away local control of CAFOs passed, but that particular amendment was stripped–thanks to lots of calls from constituents–in committee. Also stripped from the bill was a provision to create a CAFO “advisory committee”–which would have been composed of yes men for Big Ag.
- Sen. Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, proposed that the minimum wage bill voters passed a couple of years ago not apply to workers under 20. This was another case of the legislature trying to undo the will of the voters–only this time it failed.
- The mega sales tax that would have replaced the state income tax died. Hurrah! So did TABOR. Also hurrah.
- But the legislators missed some critical opportunities to alleviate our revenue shortfall:
It also appears that the legislature will turn their backs on a number of opportunities to enact some common sense, balanced solutions to ease the Missouri budget in the next fiscal year (FY2011) and in FY2012. These include taxing internet sales the same way that purchases made in bricks and mortar Missouri stores is taxed (called the streamlined sales tax), closing tax loopholes, updating outdated administrative practices, curbing the growth of tax credits, raising the tax on tobacco products and revising the personal income tax structure.
- The Republican attempt to barter for Democratic votes on Voter ID legislation, in return for early voting provisions failed.
- Perhaps the only issue on which I’ve ever praised Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis, was his bill to ban those red-light cameras. But no soap.
- The city of St. Louis, which lost local control of its police department during the Civil War, has been agitating to regain control. Not this year.
- How hard can it be to pass a bill that would ban people from texting while they drive? Doesn’t everybody know what a dangerous combo that is? Not our legislature, apparently.
- State auditor Susan Montee tells us that Missouri spent about a billion dollars more in the last several years on tax credits than they were projected to cost. Tax credits need to be studied and reined in. HB 2399 proposed capping tax credits at about 70 percent of what was redeemed last year. But it failed.
- SB1014 proposed reducing the prison population by reclassifying some state crimes and by offering offenders incentives to go to drug or DWI courts instead. Treatment for drug and alcohol problems instead of jail time would save the state money, reduce recidivism, lighten the load for swamped public defenders, and just generally be a no-brainer of a solution. But politicians are afraid to appear smart on crime rather than tough on crime.
Here are some other notable bills that failed. (For a more complete list, see the Post-Dispatch summary.)
- Water quality – Seeks to clean up water at Lake of the Ozarks and make structural changes to Department of Natural Resources. (SB2109)
- Pensions – Requires state employees hired after Jan. 1, 2011, to contribute 4 percent of their pay toward retirement and establishes investment board to manage pooled pension system portfolios. (SB714, HB2357)
- Drug testing – Requires drug testing for some recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. (HB1377)