Politics often gets described in metaphorical strategy akin to sporting events. If someone were to take a look at the status of the Special Session of the Missouri Legislature, they might describe parties involved as "getting chippy".
Three weeks after the session started, one piece of legislation, a fix to the so-called "Facebook" law regarding teacher and student communication has been passed, even though some might argue the actual bill itself is outside the scope of what Governor Jay Nixon added to his call for the session. Another bill, which could boost the high tech sector in , has also been passed, but is now tied to the fate of legislation seen as the main foundation for the session itself, an economic development bill which would create a China Hub at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.
"It’s a huge waste of people’s time and taxpayer dollars," State Rep. Jill Schupp said of the session Tuesday, back in her district which includes portions of Creve Coeur, Chesterfield and Town and Country. It was a sentiment echoed Wednesday by Governor Jay Nixon, who in a statement released by his office said:
“The General Assembly has been in special session for more than three weeks, at a cost to taxpayers of approximately $170,000. It’s time for the House and the Senate to resolve their differences and get a fiscally responsible jobs bill on my desk, or to bring this special session to a close.”
But State Senator John Lamping (R-Ladue) countered upon hearing the statement that the Senate has only been in full session for 6-7 days, and that "not a penny" of taxpayer dollars is being spent while the Assembly is in a "Technical Session" where it currently sits.
Lamping was also critical of Governor Nixon as being "not engaged at all" until the last 48 hours of the regular session as it pertained to the bill which would establish a China Cargo Hub at Lambert St. Louis International Airport. He said negotiators on the bill are not any closer now than they were at the end of the regular session, and that any sense that a deal had been reached prior to the call for a special session was a misrepresenation.
Schupp returned to Jefferson City with concerns about the bill, including the elimination of low-income tax credits for the elderly as part of the way to pay for China Hub incentives. She credits the public pushback on the issue. “It really changed the dynamics of what was going on and I think a lot of the legislators started to see, this was not going to be ok with the people in their districts.”
The Senate passed a scaled back version of the bill which did not include the elimination of the low income tax credits. Lamping said Wednesday it was time for the House to take up the Senate's bill or to hear their own.
Lawmakers have passed the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act, or MOSIRA, which would take a portion of state income taxes from new high tech jobs in the state to fund a pot of money which could be used to lure new high tech companies to the state.
But passage of MOSIRA was made contingent upon passage of the Aerotropolis Economic Development package. Schupp and Lamping agreed that proponents would seek separate approval of MOSIRA on its own if the China Hub bill falters.
The piece of legislation ready for the Governor's signature is the perceived solution to Senate Bill 54, the piece of education legislation which had its
A charge to repeal language which some had interpreted would have outlawed a teacher being a Facebook friend to their own child in some cases was But lawmakers ultimately passed new legislation instead, leading some to speculate if that was outside the scope of the official call for a special session.
"The bill will be closely reviewed after it reaches the Governor's desk and before he acts on it," Nixon's Press Secretary Scott Holste told in a report earlier this week.
Despite what could be seen as a potential legal battle over semantics, Lamping said the new bill accomplishes the same goal as laid out by the Governor's office.
The special session can only last until early November, according to the Associated Press. While he maintained his stance that taxpayer money is not being spent while lawmakers convene in a technical session, Lamping did note that the stalemate has taken away time for working on other ideas which will come up when the 2012 regular session begins in January.
Pre-filing of bills for that term begins December 1.