Jan 8, 2015 – Weekly Capitol Update

FERGUSON PROTESTERS SHUT DOWN SENATE ON FIRST DAY

Protesters shut down opening day proceedings in the Missouri Senate on Jan. 8, prompting Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder to order the chamber cleared. The Senate resumed opening day proceeding after about a half-hour but kept the chamber closed to the public. The start of the 2015 legislative session proceeded without incident in the House of Representatives.

The protestors demanded legislative action on a variety of reforms to the criminal justice system in Missouri following the fatal Aug. 9 shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown by a white Ferguson police officer. Democratic lawmakers said addressing the myriad issues raised by the incident should be a top priority in the coming year.

However, Republicans overwhelmingly control both legislative chambers, and GOP leaders indicated that while they might be open to some reforms, such as limits on how much revenue cities can derive from court fines, Ferguson won’t be a top-tier issue. “We’re not going to have a Ferguson agenda in the House,” said House Speaker John Diehl, R-Town and Country. Instead, Republican leaders said they would focus on reducing government regulations on business and pushing back against federal laws like the Affordable Care Act.

Republicans hold veto-proof majorities of 25-9 in the Senate and 117-45 in the House of Representatives, where there is one vacant seat last held by a Republican. Overriding a veto by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon requires 23 votes in the Senate and 109 in the House.

 

SCANT LEGISLATIVE SUPPORT FOR NEW RAMS STADIUM

With St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke apparently committed to moving the team back to Los Angeles, Missouri legislative leaders on Jan. 7 expressed little interest in providing taxpayer funding for a new stadium to keep the team in St. Louis. Two days earlier, Kroenke announced his intention to build a new 80,000-seat football stadium in the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood. The proposed stadium would be privately financed and could be completed by 2017.

During a news conference on the first day of the 2015 legislative session, House Speaker John Diehl, R-Town and Country, said that while he doesn’t want the Rams to move, the Missouri General Assembly isn’t going to get involved in a “bidding war” to retain the team. House Minority Leader Jake Hummel, D-St. Louis, called taxpayer funding for a new stadium “problematic” given that state and local taxpayers are still paying a combined $24 million a year to retire bonds for the construction and maintenance of the Edward Jones Dome, the Rams’ current home, and will be doing so until the early 2020s.

The Rams played in the Los Angeles area from 1946 until moving to St. Louis in 1995. Under the terms of its lease with the 20-year-old Edward Jones Dome, the team is free to leave after the end of the current season. However, the National Football League has said no teams will be allowed to move this year.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on Jan. 8 that Kroenke hasn’t returned calls from state and local officials attempting to discuss the Rams situation. As a result, they are negotiating directly with the league in hopes of preventing the team from relocating.

 

NIXON APPOINTS TWO MORE TO UM BOARD OF CURATORS

Gov. Jay Nixon on Jan. 2 appointed Maurice Graham of Clayton and Phillip Snowden of Kansas City to the University of Missouri Board of Curators, the governing authority for the four-campus University of Missouri System. A week earlier, Nixon appointed St. Louis attorney Mary Nelson to the board. All three appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.

Graham is president of the law firm of Gray, Ritter & Graham and is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Law. He is also a past president of the Missouri Bar and has served as a member and chairman of the Supreme Court Advisory Committee, which oversees attorney discipline in Missouri

Snowden served in the Missouri General Assembly from 1967 to 1985, including 10 years in the House of Representatives and eight years in Senate. He holds undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Missouri, and was the starting quarterback for the Missouri Tigers in the 1960 Orange Bowl game.

 

GOVERNOR PICKS FERGUSON COMMISSION REPLACEMENT

Gov. Jay Nixon on Jan.2 appointed retired St. Louis County Police Sgt. Byron Watson to fill a vacancy on the Ferguson Commission, the independent panel created last year in response to the recent social unrest in the St. Louis region. Watson, who is currently an officer with the St. Louis Community College campus police, replaces Bethany Johnson-Javois, who resigned from the commission after being hired as its managing director.

 

STATE REVENUE UP 5.1 PERCENT IN FIRST HALF OF FY 2015

Net state general revenue collections were up 5.1 percent through the first half of Fiscal Year 2015 compared the same period in FY 2014, going from $3.87 billion last year to $4.062 billion this year. Net collections for December 2014 increased by 10.7 percent compared to December 2013, going from $759.6 million to $841.1 million.