April 25, 2014

House sends hemp oil legislation to the Senate

Missourians who suffer from treatment resistant epilepsy could be allowed to take an extract from cannabis under a law the House passed Thursday.

Representative Caleb Jones (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Caleb Jones (R-Columbia) sponsored the hemp oil bill.  (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The bill would allow use of a hemp extract for treatment of epilepsy that a neurologist has determined is “intractable,” meaning it has resisted treatment by at least three known seizure inhibiting medications. Such extracts are low in THC, the chemical that makes marijuana users high, and larger amounts of cannabidiol, or CBD, that is said to be effective in preventing seizures.

The bill would allow growers who are not-for-profit and would be licensed by the Missouri Department of Agriculture. The state could also certify universities to grow cannabis for the extract and for research on industrial hemp.

Representative John McCaherty (R-High Ridge) said the legislation represents something Missouri can do that would truly help people.

“During one of our committee meetings we had a family there and they had a little child that was in an infant seat and within just the matter of the 20, 30, 40 minutes that it took for us to have that committee meeting that child never stopped having a seizure,” said McCaherty. “This was the one thing that they were asking.”

Representative Glen Kolkmeyer (R-Odessa) says he’s been convinced since the bill received initial passage that the proposal is a good idea.

“I’ve received two e-mails from constituents whose children have had epilepsy and they basically say, ‘Just help us,’” says Kolkmeyer. “I wasn’t sure where I was going to vote on this the other day, but today I will support it.”

The bill would allow the use of hemp extract oil with no more than 0.3 percent THC and a minimum of 5 percent CBD. Users or their parents would have to have a state-issued registration card.

The proposal was sent to the Senate 139-13 with a clause that would make it effective immediately upon being signed by the Governor.

Middle class tax credit stalled (AUDIO)

A proposed tax cut for middle-class Missourians has been described as an economic development tool and an incentive for people to get married.  But it’s in trouble as the legislature’s adjournment date gets closer.

St. Louis Senator John Lamping wants to give tax credits of $400 per child.  He has tacked the idea onto a tax credit reform bill that is stalled in the Senate with the clock running down in the session.  He’s leaving after this year but hopes returning senators pick up the issue next year.

Lamping says the bill has several virtues including a marriage incentive. “If you’re a single mom and you have two children and you’re making $50,000, you don’t qualify for the tax credit,” he says. “‘But if you marry and your combined income with your spouse is less than $92,000, then you do.”   Lamping says a marriage incentive is important at a time when 40% of children are born out of wedlock.

Lamping also argues that the credit would be part of the border war with Kansas.  He says comanies get tax credits to move from Kansas to Missouri, but people don’t.  This credit, he says, could prompt people to cross the line into Missouri, too.

AUDIO: Debate 35:09



House votes to move primary elections to June

The Missouri House has approved a bill that would move the state’s primary elections for Congress, the state legislature and statewide elected offices to June. The proposal now goes to the Senate.

Supporters say the change would allow more time for candidates to raise money ahead of general elections. Opponents argued it was purely political and would cause more campaigning to take place while lawmakers are still at work during legislative session.

The proposal passed only after Republicans convinced many members to switch their votes. It had been failing 60-89 at one point before turning around to the final 84-67 vote. At least 82 votes are needed to pass legislation out of the House.

Missouri legislature passes proposed rewrite of criminal code

The state legislature has sent to Governor Jay Nixon (D) a roughly 600-page proposal to update Missouri’s criminal code. The proposal was passed out of both chambers Thursday with wide majorities favoring it.

Representative Stanley Cox prepares for debate before final passage of the roughly 600-page criminal code bill, on his desk.  (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Stanley Cox prepares for debate before final passage of the roughly 600-page criminal code bill, on his desk. (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The bill, whose development began five years ago with a subcommittee put together by the Missouri Bar, could face a challenge with Nixon. He has said the proposal is too big, creating too much room for error in Missouri’s system of criminal laws and punishments. He wanted it broken into smaller sections to be considered individually.

That idea was dismissed by some who have worked on the plan for years, including Representative Chris Kelly (D-Columbia).  He and other backers of the bill say there are multiple opportunities for review even after it is enacted, including by the Missouri Supreme Court’s Standing Committee on Criminal Procedure.  The effective date of the legislation was also pushed back to January 1, 2017 to allow further time for review.

“As much as I can see,” Kelly told the bill’s House sponsor, Stanley Cox (R-Sedalia), “this is delay for delay’s sake rather than for any policy reason.”

A fellow Columbia lawmaker and attorney, Senator Kurt Schaefer (R), agrees with Nixon.

“Public safety is the most important thing the State of Missouri does,” says Schaefer, “and the impact on victims and victims’ families if something does not go right is terrible.”

“I can tell you as a prosecutor who has personally dealt with changes in statute in the field when you’re prosecuting a case,” says Schaefer, “a lot of times you don’t know what those things are until you are presented with a fact pattern that nobody thought of and suddenly that statute has to apply to it and then you find something that may have been an unintended consequence.”

Schaefer says he would like to have seen the code addressed chapter-by-chapter.  He voted against the bill in the Senate.

Cox and Senator Jolie Justus (D-Kansas City), the sponsors of the bill in their respective chambers, both told Missourinet previously that they believe they could overturn a veto of the bill if that’s what Nixon decides to do. It cleared both chambers Thursday with margins that could overturn a veto if no large number of lawmakers switches sides.

Senator Bob Dixon (R-Springfield) hopes the strong votes send a strong enough message that a veto override attempt won’t need to be made.

“It reflects the diligence with which everyone working on this bill, from staff all the way to agencies that answered questions for us, worked on it,” says Dixon.  “It was probably the most fully vetted bill that’s ever gone through the General Assembly.”

See the House vote on the criminal code bill

See how thirteen of the people who worked on the criminal code bill were honored

Criminal code crafters honored with superhero artwork

Some of the lawmakers and others who worked on the proposed update of the criminal code sent to Governor Jay Nixon (D) Thursday have been honored in a piece of art to mark its passage out of the legislature.


The poster depicts superhero charicatures of 13 people who worked on the proposed revision of Missouri’s criminal code, sent Thursday to Governor Nixon.

The poster features Senators Jolie Justus and Bob Dixon, Representatives Stanley Cox and Chris Kelly, Eric Jennings who works in Senator Dixon’s office, Executive Director of the Missouri Office of Prosecution Services Jason Lamb, Deputy Director of Missouri Kids First Emily Van Schenkhof, Chief Executive Officer with the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence Colleen Coble, lobbyists for the Missouri Bar Woody Cozad and Catherine Barrie, lobbyist for the Missouri Supreme Court Betsy Aubuchon, and lobbyist Ward Cook.

Missouri Bar legislative counsel Eric Wilson, who is also featured on the poster, asked his friend Ronald Barba draw the poster.

See our story on passage of the criminal code bill and on the last round of changes