Priorities to Compete for Lawmakers' Attention
JEFFERSON CITY -- When lawmakers return Monday from their spring break, economic and social priorities will compete for time during the session's final weeks.
The state's $23 billion budget awaits floor debate in the full House after passing the House Budget Committee last week. Lawmakers have maintained Gov. Jay Nixon's recommended 7 percent cut for public colleges and universities.
The House and Senate have until May 6 to agree on a budget, one week before the session ends.
Other issues are more contentious. A bill to extend unemployment benefits has stalled in the Senate over opposition from Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County.
About 23,000 Missourians stand to lose their benefits April 3 if senators can't agree to accept $81 million in federal money to extend them. Unemployed Missourians could see up to 20 more weeks of jobless pay, but Lembke has vowed to block a vote.
Social issues also threaten to derail progress. Democrats criticized the Republican majority in the first half of the session for focusing on abortion restrictions and a bill to force the Missouri Highway Patrol to check the sex-offender registry for illegal immigrants.