Missouri lawmakers face Friday deadline for bill passage
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri's Republican-controlled Legislature already has powered through many GOP priorities as lawmakers approach a Friday deadline to pass bills, and legislative leaders said that means the final days of session will be spent tackling what could be some of the most contested legislation of the session: so-called right to work and voter photo identification requirements.
"We're going to do our stuff first, which is my stuff, which is right to work," said Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, of Joplin.
Lawmakers have already passed a $26 billion budget plan, a proposed fix for the state's student transfer law, limits on damage awards in medical malpractices cases and measures to curtail the state's social programs. And a bill aimed at helping the state's agricultural industry was signed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon last month.
Republicans now have a week left to tackle more contested legislation. Still pending are a bill to prohibit labor contracts in which unions collect fees from employees who aren't members, and a proposed constitutional amendment that would require voters to show government-issued photo identification at the polls.
"One of our goals at the beginning of session was to try to move priorities early so that we can have an organized and orderly last week," House Speaker John Diehl said.
Political sparring between Republicans and Democrats over right to work and voter ID measures could mean key proposals are pushed to the sidelines.
Negotiations are stalled on an ethics bill to ban lawmakers from immediately becoming lobbyists after leaving office, Richard said. At issue is a $25 gift limit added by the House that senators are unwilling to adopt.
A stalemate would mean Missouri keeps its status as the only state in the nation with the trio of unlimited campaign finance donations, no gift caps and no restrictions on lawmakers leaving office and immediately becoming lobbyists.
A deadline is also approaching for lawmakers to act on legislation limiting when police are justified in using deadly force, a response to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer.
While Brown's death spurred months of protest, and propelled legislation limiting revenues for local courts, the deadly force bill is still on the table.
Tensions between Republicans also have delayed some bills' passage. A proposed gas tax hike to pay for repairs to state roads and bridges, for example, has divided the Senate GOP, with some Republicans speaking against any tax increase and others pushing to ensure the state continues to receive matching federal funding.
And Democrats' primary goal for a broad expansion of who is eligible for Medicaid has a slim chance of passing. But a proposal that would expand Missouri's Medicaid rolls by increasing the amount of assets elderly and disabled people can have and still qualify for the program is nearing passage.