In a rare move, the House adjourned on the next-to-last day of the legislative session at 4:30pm, extremely early as the session winds down from days to hours.
House Majority Floor Leader Steve Tilley (R-Perryville) says the House simply ran out of legislation to work on, since major bills now are in conference with the Senate. Two big bills hang in the balance of negotiators this evening: the jobs bill and a health care measure. Some have speculated that the two are linked, though no one has confirmed that.
The economic development bill has taken many forms and has been a source of contention between the House and Senate. The House moved quickly on economic development, approving HB 191 in early February. The Senate never brought the bill to a vote after several senators raised concerns about the effectiveness of tax credits. A stripped down version moved through the House, but also stalled in the Senate. Hopes now are pinned on SB 377 , which includes tax credit reform.
The health care legislation, SB 306 , took an odd route to become a center-piece of this legislative session. The House rejected a proposal by Governor Nixon to expand Medicaid eligibility to 35,000 Missourians even though the proposal would not have cost the state any general revenue. The plan envisioned using a voluntary increase in the hospital provider tax totaling $52 million to draw down about $94 million in federal funds. That would have been enough to raise Medicaid eligibility to 50% of the federal poverty level.
The dispute over the Medicaid expansion plan threatened to derail the $23 billion state budget. A compromise worked out between House and Senate negotiators dropped the Medicaid proposal in exchange for a promise by House leadership to consider a different approach, SB 306. The House is pushing to essentially expand the state high-risk pool to cover approximately 100,000 Missourians considered uninsurable, because of pre-existing conditions. It would also extend coverage to about 21,000 poor Missourians now without health coverage.
Tilley says the House also is interested in a local government bill, a transportation bill and a judiciary bill.