The Buzz

Voter ID, ethics reform, guns and abortion up for debate in Missouri Capitol

The Missouri House of Representatives
The Missouri House of Representatives AP

Some of the most vexing, not to mention controversial, issues lawmakers have faced in recent years all seem to be ready to bubble to the surface this week — From debate on voter ID that began a decade ago to a debate on Planned Parenthood that began last summer.

Here are five things we’re watching this week.

Voter ID

Republicans in Missouri have been trying to implement a photo ID requirement to vote since 2006. But they’ve always come up short. One year it was struck down by the courts. Twice it was vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon. Once before, the House and Senate passed their versions and refused to take up the other’s.

But supporters think this is the year. Republicans have veto-proof super majorities, and the idea has zoomed through the process at breakneck speed. A pair of bills now sit on the Senate calendar ready for debate – one that would amend the constitution to allow voter ID (since it’s currently unconstitutional in Missouri) and another to implement it should voter approve the constitutional amendment.

Democrats are not going to lay down on the measure, however. They promised to filibuster, setting up a showdown that likely won’t resolve itself until the end of the legislative session. Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe said debate could begin this week, but no one believes it will end this week.

Ethics reform

The Senate gave final approval to one of six ethics reform proposal on its calendar last week, but not before it was watered down. Originally aimed at making lawmakers wait a year after they leave office before they can return to the Capitol as a professional lobbyist, it now only mandates they finish their term before their lobbying career begins.

There are five other ethics bills on the calendar that could be debated this week – a ban on lobbyist gifts; a ban on lawmakers working as political consultants while in office; restrictions on the investment of campaign funds; new disclosure requirements for gubernatorial appointees; and more frequent disclosure requirements for lawmakers.

Abortion

The release last summer of undercover videos purported to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue set off a firestorm of controversy.

Investigations in several states, including one by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, found no wrongdoing, and a Houston grand jury that was investigating the Planned Parenthood accusations instead indicted two abortion opponents who made the videos of the organization.

But on Tuesday, the Missouri House Children and Families Committee will hold a public hearing on five bills inspired by the Planned Parenthood controversy. They range from changes in the law prohibiting the sale of fetal tissue to whistleblower protections for those who work in facilities that handle fetal tissue remains.

The bills will be heard at 9 a.m. Tuesday, although the hearing is expected to adjourn at 10 a.m. and start again that afternoon.

Guns

On Wednesday, the Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee will hold a public hearing on legislation that would allow concealed weapons on public transportation systems and unloaded guns on public buses. The bill, SB782, does prohibit a loaded gun on a public bus and does not apply to Amtrak or any partnership that Amtrak engages in. The hearing is scheduled for 8:15 a.m.

Sunshine

The liberal advocacy group Progress Missouri sued the Missouri Senate last year after numerous senators refused to allow video recording of hearings that were open to the public. A Cole County judge dismissed the lawsuit, but now the case has made its way to the Missouri Supreme Court, which will hear arguments Wednesday at 9:30 a.m., ultimately deciding if the Senate’s actions violate the state’s Sunshine Law.  

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