Oct. 1, 2015 – Weekly Capitol Update

AG’S INVESTIGATION CLEARS PLANNED PARENTHOOD

Attorney General Chris Koster issued a report Sept. 28 finding no evidence women’s health care provider Planned Parenthood engaged in the unlawful sale of fetal tissue derived from abortions performed at its St. Louis facility. Koster ordered the investigation after anti-abortion activists released heavily edited undercover video this summer purporting to show national Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue for medical research.

“The evidence reviewed by my investigators supports Planned Parenthood’s representation that fetal tissue is handled in accordance with Missouri law,” Koster said in a news release. “We have discovered no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis facility is selling fetal tissue.”

Republican-controlled committees in both the Missouri Senate and House of Representatives have held politically charged hearings looking into to the matter that have uncovered no evidence of wrongdoing. Despite Koster’s findings, those hearing are expected to continue.

According to a Sept. 29 story by The Associated Press, investigations in at least five other states – Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and South Dakota – have cleared Planned Parenthood of illegal activity pertaining to the sale of fetal tissue.

 

GOP LEADERS NOW SUPPORT PAY HIKE FOR STATE WORKERS

House Republican leaders are calling on Gov. Jay Nixon to include a pay raise for Missouri state employees in next year’s budget. However, it is the Republican-controlled General Assembly — not the Democratic governor — that writes the state budget and ultimately decides whether state employees should be better compensated.

As a result, lawmakers can make pay hikes for state workers a budget priority regardless of Nixon’s position on the matter. Although GOP leaders in recent years have occasionally lamented the fact that Missouri’s state workers are, on average, the lowest paid in the nation, they haven’t chosen to do anything about it.

The legislature has enacted seven state budgets since Nixon took office in January 2009. Of those, Republican lawmakers provided state workers no pay increase in four, including the current, fiscal year 2016 state budget, which took effect on July 1. In the remaining three budgets, GOP budget writers granted state workers anemic pay boosts of about one or two percent.

Missourinet reported in an Oct. 1 story that House Republicans are suggesting a 3 percent pay increase for state employees in the FY 2017 budget carrying a price tag of about $40 million. Lawmakers will begin work on the new state budget in January. FY 2017 begins on July 1, 2016.
SUPREME COURT ASKS REFORM GROUP TO NARROW EFFORTS

The Missouri Supreme Court has asked a work group studying possible municipal court reforms to narrow its focus to four issues. The court appointed the nine-member working group, which includes two former state Supreme Court judges, in May. The group issued a preliminary report on Sept. 1 that identified a dozen possible topics for further study.

In a letter publicly released on Sept. 28, Chief Justice Patricia Breckenridge asked the group for more detailed analysis on the following topics: conflicts of interest among judges, prosecutors and staff who serve in different roles in multiple municipal courts; consolidation of municipal courts; the use of warrants, bonds and incarceration; and the enforceability of judgements and remedies for non-payment.

When the court initially established the group, it set a Dec. 1 deadline for the group’s final report. In her letter, Breckenridge extended the deadline to March 1.