One day after a controversial 5-4 split decision in the United States Supreme Court approving the federal healthcare law, echoes of the recently concluded Missouri Legislative sessions debate on the matter are ringing in the ears of voters and lawmakers in the state.
The 96th session, which came to an end May 30, was dominated by fierce partisan battles, behind-closed-doors infighting that were often spiked with personal attacks that at times spilled out of the Capital and onto the World Wide Web in social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
But the rancor surrounding the health care law will surely reignite passions among returning legislators in 2013 and stoke what is shaping up to be a fiery mid-term election campaigns in August. What follows is a summary of the session by the Missouri Digital News Service's State Capital Bureau. Major laws passed from the session are listed after the break. - Ed.
As lawmakers head home many issues facing
Missouri are left unresolved
On the last day of the legislative session, Senate Republicans tried but ultimately failed to pass a bill criminalizing anyone trying to enforce the federal health care law. Republican supporters said Missouri voters spoke against the law in 2010 when they overwhelmingly voted to prohibit enforcement of the law. Democrats blocked a vote on the bill just hours before the session drew to a close.
"We should call up the US Supreme Court and tell them to shelve it and tell them the state of Missouri has already decided for them. Why do we even have a Supreme Court?" asked sarcastically Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City.
Legislators also sent a bill that would prohibit implementing health insurance exchanges without a vote of the people. The exchange is part of the federal health care law and requires states to set up a computer system where people can compare prices for health insurance. Rep. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, said the bill was a way to place a legislative check on the governor.
"This is about reigning in a governor who is out of control," Silvey said.
The issue of whether or not to set up a health exchange will now be decided by Missouri voters in November.
From the beginning to the end, the session was dominated by fighting among the large Republican majority. Republicans were divided on major education issues such as eliminating teacher tenure.
Before the legislative session closed, the Missouri General Assembly was able to send the state's $24 billion budget on time to Gov. Jay Nixon, but the Senate debate was dominated by late-night filibusters and personal attacks against Senate leadership.
As the legislature entered its final day, many signature issues had already died, but many other bills were sent to Nixon for approval. Measures passed include:
- A judicial reform bill that attempts to keep nonviolent offenders out of prison if they violate their parole.
- A higher education bill that would create a system for transferring credits between the state's public universities.
- A tax bill that would allow Missouri communities to collect local sales tax on out-of-state car sales.
- A business bill that would prohibit workers from suing their co-employees for accidental injuries sustained while at work.
- A measure that would allow restaurants at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport to sell liquor starting at 4 a.m.
- A bill authorizing St. Louis residents to vote on a tax to redevelop the grounds of the Gateway Arch.
- A telemarketing law adding cellphones to the no-call list.
- A measure to be sent to voters that would establish a health insurance exchange.
- A measure allowing employers to opt out of providing birth control for their employees.
- A health care bill that cracks down on unlicensed day care providers.