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Missouri legislative leaders form interim committees

Updated: 2013-06-12T02:41:23Z

The Associated Press

— Missouri lawmakers will be able to report that on their summer vacation they studied election law, the state’s Medicaid program for the poor and a deadly disease that afflicts deer, elk and moose.

Legislative interim committees explore policy issues after lawmakers adjourn in mid-May and before they return to the state Capitol in January for their next session. The creation of the most recent such committee was announced last week by the House and will be focusing on the spread of chronic wasting disease.

House Speaker Tim Jones said he wants the committee to help separate facts and fiction about the disease so officials can make decisions rooted in science about how to protect the state’s hunting industry.

“While we have only seen a few cases of (chronic wasting disease) here in Missouri, it is a problem we must be ready to address if we are going to protect landowners, hunters and all of the hunting-related businesses that exist here in our state,” said Jones, a Republican from Eureka.

Chronic wasting disease attacks the central nervous system and can be spread by contact between the animals and through the carcasses. The disease always is fatal, but it can take months or years for symptoms to develop. The Conservation Department said the disease has been documented in more than a dozen states and in a small number of captive and wild deer in north-central Missouri.

State officials had considered suspending the issuance permits for new big-game hunting and breeding facilities that hold white-tailed or mule deer, and they have restricted feeding activities that are likely to concentrate a larger number of animals.

In addition to the disease, Missouri lawmakers also will be studying Medicaid.

Senate leader Tom Dempsey created an interim committee on Medicaid transformation and reform that will study Missouri’s options for the program while reviewing what other states have done.

“We need to do what’s best for our state. The interim committee will be able to take a good look at Missouri’s Medicaid program and see what ideas to improve efficiency and delivery can be implemented here at home,” said Dempsey, a St. Charles Republican.

Lawmakers also passed legislation this year calling for the creation of a joint interim committee that would involve House members and senators. That legislation is awaiting action by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, who has called for expanding Missouri’s Medicaid program to cover roughly 260,000 more adults. The proposed expansion was rejected by GOP leaders.

Earlier, last week the House created an interim committee to develop proposals for removing outdated and redundant election laws and replacing worn-out voting equipment.

Dempsey said he also plans an interim committee for capital improvements, and Jones has said he could see panels focused on education, government oversight and accountability, labor issues and transportation. The Legislature also passed measures calling for committees to examine solid waste management districts and governance issues in the St. Louis metropolitan area.

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