State lawmakers have ended the 2006 session with House Republicans dismissing the losses and emphasizing the wins. The wins: eminent domain reform, Missouri’s version of Jessica’s Law, an ethanol standard and election reform. A big loss: changes to Missouri’s Medicaid coverage. House Speaker Pro Tem, Carl Bearden (R- St. Charles), says the House and Senate couldn’t come to agreement on Medicaid fraud as Republican leadership in the two chambers disagreed on how harsh penalties against Medicaid fraud should be. A bill to revive a trimmed-down version of Medicaid coverage for disabled workers also failed to clear the legislature on the last day of the session as it got tangled up with the Medicaid fraud dispute. The bill requiring voters to have photo identification passed the House with only two votes to spare. Bearden says House leadership knew the vote would be close when Senate negotiators stripped a popular amendment that the House had added during the conference committee on the bill. Bearden says the highlight of the session was eminent domain reform, which he says everyone had on their priority list entering the session. Another big defeat was the twin death of the MOHELA bill and Access Missouri last week. Bearden says Access Missouri might well return next year. Bearden sponsored Access Missouri, which sought to funnel tens of millions of higher education dollars away from state colleges and into scholarships. A House-Senate negotiating committee drastically changed the concept, but it still failed to pass. Bearden says he’s not sure what form he would favor if he re-introduces the bill next year and it might depend on what Governor Blunt does with the possible sale of Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority assets. Bearden tied the Access Missouri bill to the MOHELA bill and couldn’t generate enough support in the Senate to get both it and the MOHELA bill through the legislative process.
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