A legislative leader claims the session has been a big success so far, but acknowledges a lot of work remains to be done on at least a couple of major bills when lawmakers return to the Capitol next week.
House Speaker Pro Tem Carl Bearden (R-St. Charles) claims legislative success on the telephone/cable TV competition bill and a bill giving more flexibility in public construction projects. A major bill now in flux would eliminate the tax on Social Security benefits, a bill that grew considerably during House debate. Bearden says the bill is extremely important to House leaders, but he says they understand it has grown too large and must be trimmed.
Another important bill before the legislature would reshape the state’s Medicaid program into Missouri HealthNet. It will begin in the Senate. Bearden says the legislature must work on immigration legislation, though Bearden acknowledges the state can do only so much on the issue. Bearden still expects the House to debate Governor Blunt’s MOHELA bill, even though it hasn’t been able to get out of the Senate. The measure would use assets from the state student loan agency to fund capital improvement projects.
The House will begin floor debate on the budget when state representatives return to Jefferson City next week. Bearden served as the House Budget Committee Chairman in 2003 and 2004. He says it wasn’t as difficult for him then as it is now for Chairman Allen Icet (R-Wildwood). Bearden explains that state revenues were in decline when he presided over the budget and it was easy to turn representatives down when they asked for funding for various projects. He simply told them the state didn’t have the money. Bearden says it’s more difficult now to tell members "No" since state revenues have picked up. Bearden supports Blunt’s proposal to hold $200 million in reserve in case state revenue doesn’t meet projections.