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Tax Cuts, Student Transfers May Dominate Missouri Legislature's 2014 Session

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio
House Speaker Tim Jones and other Republican lawmakers on opening day of Missouri's 2014 legislative session.

The Missouri General Assembly's 2014 session is underway, and the first day sounded a lot like last year's session.

In his opening remarks, House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, laid out his agenda for this year's regular session: medical malpractice reform, making Missouri a right-to-work state, and cutting taxes.

"Missourians need and want lower taxes," Jones said.  "Missourians also want us to engage in significant reforms of our tax credit system, (and) end our governor's practice of picking winners and losers via a centralized planning authority."

The GOP-controlled House and Senate passed a major tax cut bill (House Bill 253) last year, which Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed.  Nixon then successfully campaigned against efforts to override his veto during September's veto session.

Democrats are again pushing for Medicaid expansion. Nixon spent much of last year campaigning for it, but Republicans in both chambers successfully beat back every bill and amendment that would have expanded Missouri's Medicaid rolls.  House Minority Leader Jake Hummel, D-St. Louis,  said Republicans left 24,000 jobs on the table last year by not expanding Medicaid. Instead, he said, they're again dredging up the same so-called right-wing agenda they sponsored in 2013.

"All of the crazy stuff that was brought to the floor last year -- Sharia law, drones -- all that stuff's been filed again, it's nothing new," Hummel said.  "There (are) no new ways (in their agenda) to create jobs in this state."

Meanwhile, House Democrats and Senate Republicans share one priority – finding a solution to the state's student transfer law.

"Philosophically, we believe that every child deserves access to a quality education, (and) I think under most circumstances we'd prefer that to be in the communities in which those children live," said Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles.  "This is a situation where we are compelled (by the courts) to act, much like we needed to address the Second Injury Fund (last year)."

Dempsey also expressed concern that Missouri's new testing standards could result in more school districts losing accreditation and becoming subject to the transfer law.  The dilemma, though, is not a top priority in the House.

"This law was passed with great foresight by a Democratically controlled General Assembly many, many years ago,"  Jones said.  "I applaud their foresight...for the first time in nearly 40 years, kids have an opportunity to escape the failing districts that they have been consigned to because of their zip codes."

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.