Loaded Special Session

The people we elect to pass our laws come back to Jefferson City a week early today to do some things they didn’t do or didn’t do well enough in their four-month session earlier this year.  Leaders think they can get it all done this time in a couple of weeks.

How can they do all of these things in two weeks that they couldn’t get done in four months?

Statistics give a partial answer.  In the regular session, 1,455 bills were introduced in the House and the Senate.  Another sixty joint resolutions were introduced.  We lost track of the number of concurrent resolutions–many trying to tell the federal government how to run things–were introduced.   So just in bills and joint resolutions, lawmakers had 1,515 proposals in their baskets.

For the special session  there are only ten issues to be dealt with.  When the Governor calls a special session, he narrowly defines the issues that can be considered, thus limiting time-consuming debates on piggybacking other bills through the amendment process.  Further, Governor Nixon has been reluctant to call a special session unless there is enough consensus to pass a bill expeditiously.

That doesn’t mean that some critics of certain proposals won’t try to talk them into defeat or will discuss issues at length.  But the special session system generally works against opponents of proposals put forth.

Here’s the agenda:

  • MOSIRA, the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act, designed to provide resources to companies investing in technology and science ventures.
  • The China trade hub at Lambert-St. Louis airport, a $360 million tax incentive program that backers refer to as the “aerotropolis” bill.  This one has some strong critics who doubt the practicality of the whole idea and question some of the provisions that seem to exclude certain interests from participating in the developments.
  • Another bunch of business incentives is known as the Compete Missouri Initiative.
  • Still another bunch of incentives targets development of data centers.
  • The governor wants the lawmakers to reform the whole tax credit system including historic tax credits and tax credits for low-income people.  He wants the reforms to reflect findings of his tax credit review commission.
  • A tax amnesty bill didn’t make it during the regular session.  The governor was counting on that to raise money for the budget, figuring people who’ve been shirking their responsibilities will pay up if they don’t face penalties.
  • A presidential primary bill was vetoed by the governor because it contained stuff other than the issue of the primary.  He has said he’ll sign a pure primary bill that moves our primary to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March.  Political parties have threatened to penalize convention delegates from states that want to hold their primaries too early.
  • Local control of the St. Louis police department is on the agenda. The department is run now by a police board appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state senate.  It’s been that way since the Civil War when the state wanted to make sure no rebels got control of the police in a city critical to the union cause.
  • Another bill authorized tax credits to help attract amateur sporting events to Missouri—things like the Olympic trials or the NCAA Final Four or some things like that.

And the agenda includes a revision of the so-called Facebook law that was passed in the spring and signed by the governor.  Teacher groups have raised Cain about it, complaining it limits communication between teachers and students through social media at a time when students are increasingly using social media for communication.

Some of the bills will be filed in the House. Some will be filed in the Senate.  The process can be speeded up because of the limited number of issues allowing committees that heard these issues in the spring to conduct pro forma hearings and send the bills to the floor for debate within hours.  A day or two of debate moves them from one chamber to another.  Some won’t be changed and could reach the governor by the end of the week.  Others will undergo some modification and will face negotiations but compromises under these circumstances are usually not as difficult as they are in the spring.

But sometimes things hang up–as they did last year when a one week session turned into three.

The session to consider bills the governor vetoed from the spring gathering starts next week.  Governor Nixon vetoed 14 bills, one of which–congressional redistricting–already has been overridden.  Two-thirds of the members of both houses have to support an override.

We’ll look at those issues next week.

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