A lot of work in the House mid-way through the last week of the session has been devoted to fixing a bill already approved and sent to the governor.
Rep. Ron Richard (R-Joplin) admits his economic development bill has flaws, five in fact. Richard has told fellow representatives he could see no other way to approve HB 327 except to approve it with the flaws and send it to Governor Blunt. Richard says talks with the Senate broke down and he didn’t believe compromise was possible. According to Richard, if the bill returned to the Senate, it would die.
The House approved HB 327 on a 142-to-12 vote May 10 th . At that time, supporters promised to return with language to correct the flaws and attach that language to other bills working their way through the process. They have been seeking vehicles for the fixes ever since.
It is a method that has raised eyebrows, especially among Democrats.
Rep. Paul LeVota (D-Independence) addresses Richard during House floor debate, “Please, reassure me, as Economic Development (Committee) Chairman that this was not your intention and this is not the way we should be doing business.”
Richard readily admits that this is not the way the legislature should be doing business, but adds that he couldn’t see any other way to approve the legislation that he sees as vital to Missouri’s economic prosperity. HB 327 contains an enhancement of the state’s top economic development tool, the Quality Jobs program. It also has a provision creating what some call Quality Jobs light, a program that provides the smallest of businesses tax incentives to create jobs that pay higher than average wages and offer health care. That provision contained one of the flaws, a technical problem with its language.
Rep. Tom Villa (D-St. Louis) has been the harshest critic of the method being used to address problems with HB 327. Villa criticizes Republicans for trying to, in essence, change a bill that has been approved by the legislature and sent to the governor. He suggests that the proper route would be to reconsider the vote on HB 327, return it to the floor for further debate, fix the problems and then send it back to the governor.
House members have rejected his advice and have approved language in two bills aimed at addressing the flaws in HB 327. Amendments have been attached to SB 582 that would fix the language for Quality Jobs light, remove a provision that would have provided a tax break for an Internet based retailer and eliminate a sales tax break for utilities. Those amendments were offered by Rep. Shannon Cooper (R-Clinton) who promised the body when it approved HB 327 that he would return with language to make the fixes. Cooper also has attached two amendments to SB 313 that would invalidate language allowing for the creation of regional railroad authorities and one in the lifting of the scalping ban that some lawmakers believe would hinder season ticket sales.
It remains to be seen what the Senate thinks of the House fixes. The session ends Friday at six o’clock.