Holden calls legislators back to Jeff City
By CARL H. HENDRICKSON
For the Call
Gov. Bob Holden has called a special session of the General Assembly for June 2 to address four budget bills he intends to veto.
Holden announced last week he would veto bills that include cuts to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Department of Higher Education and the Department of Social Services. He also intends to veto the bill that funds the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Health and Senior Services.
The budget sent to him by the General Assembly is $367 million in the red, Holden contends.
State Rep. Pat Yaeger, D-Lemay, told the Call that Governor Holden wants the General Assembly to reconsider the deep cuts it has made in the budget.
Yaeger said she believes the budget is not balanced. Besides vetoing the four budget measures, Holden is expected to seek a tobacco tax increase as well as asking the Legislature to approve other revenue-generating measures.
"School districts may have to dip into their reserve funds if the state cannot find additional funding for them," Yaeger said. She is concerned that some school districts may go below the required three percent reserve and become "distressed districts."
Yaeger also noted, "Missouri is one of 45 states facing revenue and budgetary problems. It is unfair to imply that this problem is unique to Missouri.''
Rep. Sue Schoemehl, D-Oakville, agrees that the budget is not balanced. In a press release, she said that she anticipates that there would be a revenue gap of more than $360 million.
"The projected budget gap could serve as justification for Governor Bob Holden to call a special session since it is required by Missouri's Constitution to have a balanced budget," Schoemehl said.
In a press release, House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, R-Warson Woods, pointed out that it has been almost a century since a Missouri governor has vetoed a budget bill in its entirety.
"Gov. Holden has abdicated his responsibilities as chief executive officer of Missouri and fails to show any sign of leadership," Hanaway stated. "Even during the Great Depression, both world wars and the recession of the 1970s, governors approved the budget set forth by the Gen-eral Assembly and guided the citizens of Missouri through financial straits."
During the regular session, which began Jan. 8, the Legislature sent 284 of 1,460 bills that were introduced to Holden, who has until July 14 to approve or disapprove the bills.
In the Senate, Sen. Anita Yeckel, R-Sunset Hills, succeeded in passing critical small-business legislation.
Her bill, Senate Bill 69, will create a Small Business Regulatory Fairness Board that will provide small-business owners with more influence on the creation of new regulations.
In a news release, Yeckel said, "Cooper-ation among government and business will lead to better rules and regulations. I be-lieve this legislation will turn the tide and begin to create jobs in this state instead of losing them."
Nearly 120,000 small businesses are expected to benefit from the creation of the board. Having been passed by the General Assembly, SB 69 has been sent to the governor for his signature.
Other measures sent to the governor include an overhaul of the foster care system, concealed carry, a 24-hour waiting period for abortions, nursing home reforms, a sales tax holiday for back-to-school sales, tax amnesty for delinquent taxpayers, tort reform, and lowering the time on Sundays to 9 a.m. when liquor may be sold by stores and restaurants.
Rep. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay, told the Call that he considered this to be a successful regular session.
However, he is disappointed that a bill to limit the growth in assessed valuation to 5 percent over two years for senior citizens died in conference.
He told the Call, "The Senate conferees opposed the cap and insisted that the property tax for seniors be deferred during their ownership, with a lien placed against the property for the unpaid tax."
Lembke also was disappointed that the bill to ban human cloning died the last day in the Senate. He said, "The bill had passed 123–5 in the House, but Sens. Bray (Joan Bray, D-University City) and Quick (Ed Quick, D-Liberty) filibustered it to death on the final day of session."
He has asked the House Speaker to establish an Interim Committee on Bio Ethics to study the issue of human cloning and will pre-file the banning bill in De-cember.
Rep. Walt Bivins, R-Oakville, told the Call that he was disappointed that tax relief for senior citizens again did not pass this year.
He also expressed disappointment to the Call that the bill that would have put gaming revenue into a Classroom Trust Fund for distribution to school districts on a per-pupil basis also failed.
Like Lembke, Bivins considered this to be a successful legislative session.
"The positives," he told the Call, "in-clude the 24-hour waiting period before a woman may obtain an abortion, the concealed carry legislation, the measure giving local school districts the authority to decide when to begin the school year, and the limit on the sale of the cold pills used in making methamphetamine."
Besides the line-item vetoes of the budget, Rep. Michael Vogt, D-Affton, told the Call, "I expect the governor to veto the tort reform bill that was passed during the regular session and call the legislature into special session regarding this legislation."
Senate Bill 280, the "tort reform" bill, was passed on the last day. The bill limits both the amount of damages that may be recovered in medical malpractice litigation and where a lawsuit may be filed.