Leatherneck Blogger

Veto session’s over: Here’s your report card, Missouri Legislature

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by Mike Ferguson | for Missouri Watchdog

KANSAS CITY — Missouri’s lawmakers are done with their work in 2013. Now it’s time to hand out report cards.

While partisans and pundits debate who won the great veto battle this year, activists outside the Capitol assess the progress — or damage, depending on your point of view — of the state as a result of Jefferson City legislation.

Missouri Watchdog reached out to advocacy groups on both sides of the political spectrum to get their thoughts. We asked them to grade both Gov. Jay Nixon and the Missouri Legislature on their performance this year.

Not surprisingly, those on the left gave lawmakers low marks. Those who lean to the right aren’t completely happy with the GOP-dominated Legislature’s performance, but gave them credit for their efforts.

Here’s what our respondents had to say about the Legislature. Thoughts about Nixon will run Friday.

Carl Bearden, a former Republican state representative and current director of right-leaning advocacy group United for Missouri, gave the Legislature a B-minus.

“The Legislature resisted the temptation to be bought by false promises of more federal money by not expanding Medicaid and they passed the first broad-based income tax cut in almost 100 years,” he said.

Although lawmakers failed to overturn Nixon’s veto on the tax cut, they did overturn others.

“For the first time in many years the Legislature finally acted like a separate branch of government and did not fall prey to the ‘Governor will just veto it’ mantra,” Bearden said.

Bearden believes lawmakers — particularly conservatives — lost some of their political battles in the public relations trenches, which hurt their chances of overturning the income tax cut bill, HB 253.

“While it may not be possible to fully overcome the power of the governor’s bully pulpit, the Legislature has not done a good job of messaging why they passed the bills they passed and why they are good for Missouri,” he said.

On the other side of the aisle, Jeanette Mott-Oxford, former Democratic state representative and current director of the Missouri Association for Social Welfare, handed out a flunking grade to the Legislature.

“This Legislature demonstrated that the lack of ethical campaign finance reform and the presence of term limits have meant a real loss of quality for Missouri’s General Assembly,” she said.

Mott-Oxford applauded those who declined to override HB 253, as well as SB 29, the right-to-work legislation (which she described as “the right of workers to organize.”)

Perhaps her biggest criticism was the decision not to expand Medicaid. She said agreeing to expand coverage to 138 percent of the poverty level would have created jobs, covered more uninsured and made funding more stable for medical care facilities.

“Failure to do so means that, at least for coming months, if not years, Missouri’s federal tax dollars will be spent in other states, but not come home to help our neighbors who have no access to affordable health care,” she said.

Mott-Oxford said she believes in tax reform – just not that pushed by Republicans.

She touted HB 843, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Jeanne Kirkton in 2013, which would require top earners to pay more and give cuts for “the bottom 60 percent of Missourians.”

“The current state tax system is outdated, unfair, and inadequate,” Mott-Oxford said.

Ray McCarty, executive director of Associated Industries of Missouri, was happy overall with the performance of the House and Senate, giving the bodies a grade of B.

He noted lawmakers passed a number of bills that were business-friendly, including legislation to reduce tax liability for state companies that make income from interstate or international trade and eliminating barriers to collect sales and use taxes from out-of-state companies selling to Missouri customers.

But he wasn’t happy with every effort.

“We would have preferred the Legislature override the governor’s veto of the tax cut bill and the bills addressing unemployment payments,” McCarty said. “We would have preferred the Legislature not enact the special carve-outs from workers’ compensation for occupational diseases resulting from toxic exposure because this erodes the most basic premise of the workers’ compensation law.”

McCarty said his goal for next year is to address a court decision that eliminated non-economic damage caps on medical malpractice claims.

Sean Nicholson, executive director of the liberal group Progress Missouri, didn’t quite flunk lawmakers, but gave them a D-minus.

He accused them of “taking orders” from the American Legislative Exchange Council and billionaire Rex Sinquefield, founder of the conservative think tank Show-Me Institute and heavy donator to Republican causes.

On the bright side, he said, lawmakers defeated anti-Sharia and nullification bills, but Nicholson said the “refusal to expand Medicaid remains inexcusable.”

“Expansion would mean healthier families, stronger communities and thousands of jobs across the state,” he said. “Fortunately, bipartisan support for full expansion continues to grow as we approach the 2014 session.”



Written by Leatherneck Blogger

October 17, 2013 at 06:00

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