HOUSE CHANGES ABORTION BILL, SENDS IT BACK TO SENATE
Rejecting the compromise approach to stronger abortion regulations approved by the Senate, the House of Representatives on June 20 voted 110-38 in favor of a more hardline bill, sending the measure back to the upper chamber and likely extending the current special legislative session well into July.
The two chambers did agree on a key provision of a bill that seeks to invalidate a St. Louis City ordinance prohibiting employers or landlords from discriminating against women who are pregnant, use contraception or have had an abortion. While Republican supporters of overturning the ordinance said employers or landlords shouldn’t be forced to hire or rent to women who have made reproductive decisions they morally disagree with, Democrats argued that such decisions are private and none of a prospective employer or landlord’s business.
On the remainder of the bill, however, the House took a much tougher stance than the Senate. Those provisions include imposing more stringent regulations on abortion facilities than are required of other medical facilities and granting the attorney general original jurisdiction to file charges for alleged violations of abortion laws, decisions that traditionally are left up to local prosecutors.
Gov. Eric Greitens, a Republican, called lawmakers into special session on the issue after similar legislation failed to advance during the regular session that ended in May. Neither the House nor Senate is expected to reconvene in full session until on or around July 10.
If the Senate doesn’t accept the House version, which it isn’t expected to do, then negotiators from the two chambers will have to craft a final version, causing the special session to drag out further. Special sessions cost taxpayers roughly $25,000 for each day both chambers are in full session.
TAX CREDITS COST STATE $5.4 BILLION OVER LAST DECADE
Tax credits have cost Missouri $5.4 billion in lost revenue over the last decade, with an additional $3 billion in outstanding liability over the next 15 years from credits that have been authorized but not yet redeemed, according to a report State Auditor Nichole Galloway issued on June 21. Galloway, a Democrat, recommended that lawmakers more carefully weigh the purported benefits of the state’s various tax credit programs against their impact on the state budget.
“Tax credit programs serve a purpose, but each one must be regularly analyzed for efficiency, effectiveness and to ensure they meet desired purposes,” Galloway said in a news release. “Budgets are about priorities and the impact tax credits have on the budget has to be considered.”
Missouri has more than 60 tax credit programs, and their scope and structure vary. But the higher profile – and higher dollar – programs provide businesses with a mechanism to leverage tax revenue to finance development projects. How such programs typically work is a recipient is awarded a certain amount of tax credits and then sells them at less than face value to generate financing. So, instead of paying taxes to the state, the credit purchaser pays their taxes to the credit seller at a discount rate while being credited by the state with having paid their taxes in full.
Tax credits aren’t included as part of the state budget and can be cashed in years after the fact. As a result, in years when spending cuts are required, such as with the 2018 fiscal year state operating budget approved by lawmakers in May, achieving budget savings by reducing tax credit expenditures in a given year isn’t an option.
Tax credit programs have expanded greatly since the late 1990s but in recent years have generated more criticism regarding their impact on state revenues and whether they serve a legitimate policy purpose or instead primarily are unnecessary corporate welfare programs.
AG SUES DRUG COMPANIES OVER ROLE IN OPIOID ADDICTION
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley sued three large pharmaceutical companies on June 21 saying they fraudulently misrepresented the serious risks posed by the prescription opioids they manufacture and sell. At least two other states, Mississippi and Ohio, have filed similar lawsuits seeking to hold manufacturers partly responsible for the nationwide opioid addiction epidemic.
Hawley, a Republican, filed the suit against Purdue Pharma, Endo Health Solutions and Janssen Pharmaceutical, in St. Louis Circuit Court. In March, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, announced an investigation into opioid manufacturers over the role their sales and marketing practices have played in growing rates of addiction.