Abortion debates: The Missouri Senate spent much of this week debating abortion.
One bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Wayne Wallingford of Cape Girardeau, seeks to overturn a St. Louis ordinance protecting women against workplace discrimination based on whether they’ve had an abortion.
Another, sponsored by Republican Sen. Bob Onder of St. Charles County, would enact tougher regulations on the disposal of fetal tissue, mandate yearly state inspections on clinics that perform abortions and give the attorney general the authority to enforce state abortion laws.
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Amendments were offered on both bills that would require a minor to notify both parents before getting an abortion.
“The proposals we’ve been discussing are meant to uphold medical standards, protect women and guard against abuses that have occurred elsewhere in this country,” Onder said.
A Democratic filibuster blocked passage of both bills all week.
Budget clears house: The Missouri House officially passed the state’s $27 billion budget Thursday.
The budget fully funds K-12 public schools for the first time since lawmakers adopted a funding formula more than a decade ago, but it makes big funding cuts to the state’s universities and colleges.
A tax credit for low-income seniors who rent their homes was eliminated to free up enough money to roll back Gov. Eric Greitens’ proposed cuts to a program providing nursing home and in-home care for the elderly and disabled.
The budget also includes several policy pronouncements. For instance, the state would be prohibited from studying toll roads as an option generating revenue to pay for transportation infrastructure, and public colleges and universities are banned from providing in-state tuition rates to students living in the country illegally.
“We have a really great product here that I’m proud to send to the Senate,” said House Budget Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick, a Shell Knob Republican.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Dan Brown, a Republican from Rolla, said he’s going to try to get as close as possible to fully funding public education, but it likely won’t be fully funded. That’s because fully funding the school aid formula triggers a 2014 law that requires the state to fund early childhood education in districts across the state.
Moneyball: Greitens celebrated opening day of baseball season this year by inviting three children whose parents are serving overseas in Missouri’s National Guard to join him and several members of his staff at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
The roughly $1,200 for 10 tickets, as well as a new Cardinals jacket for Greitens, didn’t come out of the governor’s pocket, but rather from his campaign’s political action committee.
The governor’s spokesman, Parker Briden, noted in an email to The Star that campaign funds are allowed to be used to entertain constituents. Going to the game, Briden said, “meant the world to those families.”
But for years, critics have panned the practice of using campaign funds to reimburse lobbyists and organizations for gifts, which they worry enables elected officials to convert campaign money to personal use.
Shortly after taking office, Greitens signed an executive order banning him and his staff from accepting lobbyist gifts. Briden told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the governor was invited to the game by the St. Louis Cardinals organization.
“The fact that people in the media are trying to use this as an opportunity to somehow attack the governor is pretty pathetic,” Briden said.
“Goofy” tax debate: Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, an Overland Park Republican, warned his fellow Republicans to keep it serious this week when they debated a flat tax bill.
“If things get goofy on the floor, I’ll make a motion to send it back to committee,” Denning told Senate Republicans.
“I’m having a little trouble understanding what ‘get goofy’ means,” said Sen. Dennis Pyle, a Hiawatha Republican.
Republican leaders explained that they were referring to procedural moves that could have broken up the bill into different parts and scattered the debate. In this case, it could have meant dividing the bill so that lawmakers agreed to lower the sales tax on food while not having to vote for a flat tax increase.
“The voters know that we are in a fiscal crisis and to send a bill out in the Senate that lowers the amount of money, that lowers food sales tax and that’s all it does, that’s not a serious attempt to fix our budget,” said Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican.
That didn’t sit well with some Republicans.
“I think you’re trying to judge motives, and I think that’s improper,” Pyle said.
The flat tax bill failed on a 37-3 vote.
Support for Israel: Members of the Kansas House made it clear this week: They support Israel.
The House voted 116-9 to pass House Bill 2409. The legislation would ban Kansas from contracting with people or companies who are boycotting Israel.
“They’re an ally of ours, and we should support them any way we can,” said Rep. John Resman, an Olathe Republican.
The legislation also would require written notice from people contracting with the state of Kansas that they are not boycotting Israel.
Rep. John Carmichael, a Wichita Democrat who opposed the legislation because of the added regulations, said it was an example of a “feel-good bill or resolution.”
“If it’s truly complied with, it will raise the cost of doing business with the state of Kansas, which will then be passed on to the taxpayers eventually,” he said.