A special legislative session has stalled. No work has been done this week and it’s unclear what might happen next week.
It appeared the legislature was poised to return from the Independence Day holiday and begin work ironing out differences in the two bills in this special session. It didn’t happen. Nothing happened this week.
“I think every day that passes creates a bigger and bigger problem for the governor’s office,” House Retirement Committee Chairman Jim Viebrock tells the Missourinet.
Viebrock worries that momentum is being lost in this special session.
“I think as people lose interest in the issue and begin to throw their hands up in frustration, the likelihood of it being a successful special session deteriorates,” according to Viebrock.
The first full day of the special session was held on June 29th. The full House gathered to consider a bill to overhaul the state worker retirement system, HB 1, and another bill that would provide incentives for auto manufacturers and their suppliers, HB 2. The manufacturer bill has a direct target: the Ford Claycomo plant that sits just outside the city limits of Kansas City. The bill would offer Ford up to $100 million over the next 10 years to keep the plant at full capacity, once production of the Escape SUV moves to Kentucky. Suppliers to the factory could receive $50 million in tax breaks. The pension bill is being pushed as a way to save the state up to $300 million. Senate leaders say it’s needed to pay for the incentives to Ford.
The House suspended rules, rolled the legislative process into one day, and approved both bills. The pension bill went to the Senate on a 92-54 vote. The jobs bill breezed to 125-to-19 passage. What appeared to be typical special session quickness ground to a halt in the Senate. The Senate substituted its own version of the pension bill July 1st and returned the bill to the House on a 25-7 vote. The jobs bill cleared one Senate committee, but is stuck in the Senate Fiscal Oversight Committee. Committee Chairman, Sen. Chuck Purgason, wouldn’t allow the bill to come up for a vote. Purgason, a Republican from Caulfield running for US Senate, complains that the state shouldn’t be giving tax breaks to a profitable international corporation while refusing to give similar tax breaks to small businesses. He has threatened to kill the bill.
This week the House met in technical session. No committee meetings were held. No action was taken.
Viebrock believes the House would approve the pension bill if the Senate drops its insistence that a new retirement investment board be created. The Senate version contains a provision to create the Missouri State Retirement Investment Board, an independent investment advisory for the Missouri State Employees Retirement System (MOSERS) and the Missouri Department of Transportation and Highway Patrol Employees Retirement System (MPERS). Viebrock understands persuading the Senate to give on that provision might prove difficult.
“Well, you know, we’re in a tough spot,” Viebrock says. “We’re pretty much stuck at the moment until the Senate decides they’re ready to bend on that board provision.”
Viebrock says it was a huge mistake on Governor Nixon’s part to call the special session when there wasn’t consensus on the pension bill.