Weekly Capitol Update (Week of 3/31/14)

HOUSE PASSES REVISED VERSION OF GUN NULLIFICATION BILL

The House of Representatives on April 3 voted 110-41 in favor of legislation that seeks to declare federal guns laws “null and void and of no effect” in Missouri. The bill itself, however, would likely be a constitutional nullity since federal courts have consistently ruled that states have no authority to nullify federal law. The measure, HB 1439, now advances the Senate.

The House approved the bill only after stripping a controversial provision that would make it crime punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 for federal officials to enforce federal gun laws in the state. The bill, however, would create a civil cause of action for Missourians arrested or convicted of federal gun crimes to sue federal officials in state court for enforcing federal law.

The Senate approved a version of the nullification bill earlier this year that retains the criminal penalties for enforcing federal law. That bill, SB 613, remains pending in the House. Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed gun-law nullification legislation last year and has indicated he will do so again.

NIXON PICKS ACTING DSS DIRECTOR FOR PERMANENT POST

Gov. Jay Nixon on March 31 nominated Brian Kinkade as director of the Missouri Department of Social Services. Kinkade, who has worked at the department in various capacities under the last five governors, has served as acting director of the department for most of the last three years. The nomination is subject to Senate confirmation.

Following the departure of Nixon’s first social services director, Ronald Levy, Kinkade served as acting director of the agency from August 2011 through December 2012 before resuming his post as deputy director. After his replacement, Alan Freeman, resigned the post after just five months, Kinkade again took over the temporary leadership of the agency in June 2013.

HOUSE NARROWLY APPROVES UNION DUES DEDUCTION BILL

The House of Representatives on April 3 voted 83-69 to send legislation to the Senate that would require union members to provide annual written authorization for their employer to deduct union dues from their paychecks. The bill, HB 1617, also would require a separate annual written authorization for a union to spend any portion of a worker’s dues for political purposes. The measure received just one more vote than is necessary for passage, with 19 Republicans joining unified House Democrats in opposition.

To avoid another veto by Gov. Jay Nixon, who spiked similar legislation last year, if approved by both legislative chambers HB 1617 would go on the Aug. 5 statewide ballot, bypassing the governor and leaving the matter for Missouri voters to decide.

Supporters of the bill say it would give workers more control over their paychecks. Opponents call it a blatant attempt to make it harder for unions to collect dues and advocate for their members. Opponents also note that workers can already opt out of automatic payment of dues any time they choose.

SENATE APPROVES $600 MILLION BONDING PLAN

The Senate on April 3 voted 25-6 in favor of legislation that would authorize the state to issue $600 million in revenue bonds to finance the repair and improvements to state buildings. The bonds would be repaid from future state revenue collections. The bill now advances to the House of Representatives.

SB 723 would authorize $200 million in bonds to replace Fulton State Hospital, a more than 150-year-old secure mental health facility. Another $200 million in bonds would go for other state buildings, with the remaining $200 million allocated for capital improvements at the public colleges and universities.

SENATOR RESIGNS TO JOIN PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION

State Sen. Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville, resigned his seat on April 3 shortly before the Senate voted to confirm his appointment to the Missouri Public Service Commission, the state regulatory authority for investor-owned utilities. Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, nominated Rupp for the commission on March 25.

Rupp’s departure leaves Republicans with 23 Senate seats, the bare minimum needed for the two-thirds supermajority necessary to override a gubernatorial veto without Democratic support. Democrats hold nine Senate seats, after a Democratic senator resigned to accept a gubernatorial appointment late last year.

NET FY 2014 STATE REVENUE COLLECTIONS UP 1.7 PERCENT

Year-to-date net state general revenue collections were up 1.7 percent through the first nine months of the 2014 fiscal year, going from $5.48 billion during the same period in FY 2013 to $5.57 billion this year. Net general revenue collections for March 2014 decreased 0.7 percent compared to those for March 2013, going from $536.1 million to $532.6 million.

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