Republican Issues Dominate Session's Final Week

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JEFFERSON CITY - Lawmakers in both the House and Senate passed drug testing requirements for welfare recipients and a measure to establish the right to pray in government buildings, continuing a week dominated by conservative social issues.

The drug testing bill now heads to Gov. Jay Nixon, where a controversial measure requiring Missouri voters to show photo ID at the polling place already sits. The public prayer item will go before voters, who have the opportunity to add it to the state's constitution.

The legislative session's final week has so far seen debate on a number of divisive bills, after lawmakers passed redistricting and the budget, which were must-haves. But the week won't be all about social issues, Republican House Speaker Steve Tilley said.

"It's a conservative state," Tilley said. "The citizens of this state sent 106 conservative Republicans up here to balance our state budget, to live within our means, to pass a pro-jobs agenda, and to bring some governmental accountability."

But many Democrats opposed photo ID, and Rep. Mike Talboy, the House's Democratic leader, said the drug testing bill would hurt disadvantaged children who have no control over their parents' drug use. The punishment for those testing positive would be a three-year suspension from receiving benefits.

"I think it's obviously singling out a segment of society, and I think anytime you start doing that it's going to have negative repercussions," Talboy said. "I just think it's a really bad bill and it costs the state money."

Besides those issues, a ban on the synthetic drugs "K-3" and so-called "bath salts" is headed to Nixon's desk. A proposal forcing all Missourians to take their driver's tests in English could see attention later in the week.

Two other pieces of priority legislation are stalled, as the House and Senate are holding them hostage from one another. The Senate is sitting on a plan to give St. Louis control of its own police for the first time since the Civil War. But the Senate refuses to act until the House approves an overhaul of tax credits. House leaders have so far not touched that bill.