Crowell questions format, purpose of special session in heated floor exchange

Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, left, begins to ask Majority Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Peters, right, questions about a routine motion shortly after the Senate convened for business during a special legislative session called by Gov. Jay Nixon Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011, in Jefferson City, Mo. Dempsey had just moved to inform House members the senate was in session when Crowell was recognized to speak and took control of the floor. The procedure is normally approved without debate. Crowell has said he opposes some of the new tax credits being considered during the special session because he believes they do not allow enough protection for tax payers.(AP Photo/Kelley McCall)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Sen. Jason Crowell dominated the senate floor Tuesday in an attempt to stop a special legislative session called by Gov. Nixon from starting.

He questioned the need for a special session, which he said is costing taxpayers $25,000 a day.

For three hours, Crowell dragged out debate by discussing several topics outside the special session parameters established by the governor including right to work, his distaste for party leadership and even his upcoming October wedding.

"As you know, my party leaders hate my guts, and I hate their guts," he said.

He urged senators to adjourn and instead call themselves back into special session where they can operate under a broader set of rules than those allowed under the governor's call for a special session.

"It's undemocratic. It's an abortion to be here under these specific, tight noose-like parameters that only the governor wants. He does not get to craft the bills and then sign the bills he crafted. That's repugnant," Crowell said.

Legislators returned to Jefferson City on Tuesday to discuss an agenda set by the governor featuring business incentives including $360 million for an air cargo hub in St. Louis; changing the state's presidential primary from February to March; granting St. Louis officials direct control over the city's police force, which is now controlled by a state board; and offering tax amnesty to some people and businesses.

Crowell said he'd like senators to have the ability to introduce bills on other topics, but this isn't allowed under the governor's call. He eventually yielded, but not before making it clear that he believes this session is a "disaster."

"It's a heck of a lot easier to stop a freight train before it starts moving, without any conductor on the track, than when it hits 75 miles an hour," Crowell said in response to questions about his motives from Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter.

Crowell and Mayer later hurled insults at each other.

Senators passed their first resolution of the session, a routine document notifying the House of Representatives that the Senate is in session, and later introduced several bills before recessing.

When asked why he ended what appeared as if it might become a filibuster, Crowell -- who has said this session caters to special interests -- responded he believes there is a path to a taxpayer-first session. "I hope the Senate chooses the taxpayer-first way," he said.

Crowell called an economic development proposal touted as the "Made in Missouri" jobs bill as a backroom deal that gives government handouts to campaign donors and special interests.

Mayer, later in the day, filed a bill containing the Made in Missouri jobs proposal, which has the support of Gov. Nixon, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other business groups.

It includes:

* $360 million over 16 years in Aerotropolis tax credits for warehouse facilities and airlines to create an international cargo hub at Lambert Airport in St. Louis.

* The Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act, which would dedicate a portion of state income tax from new jobs at science and technology companies into a fund to help startups.

* Tax breaks for data centers, which house large computer banks.

* Caps on historic preservation tax credits and low-income housing tax credits. It also bans the practice of "stacking" both low-income and historic preservation tax credits on the same project.

* A provision that would make renters ineligible to receive the senior citizen property tax credit.

A passionate advocate for tax credit reform, Crowell said these steps to limit tax credits don't go far enough. Missouri's low income housing tax credit program is riddled with waste, fraud and abuse, he said.

"If you talk to the people paying for this, Mr. and Mrs. Missouri taxpayer, you would get it," he told fellow senators. "You would understand that $363,000 an apartment unit for the Schultz School is insane. But somehow you don't do anything about it."

The Schultz School Senior Apartments project in Cape Girardeau received $600,000 in state and federal low-income housing tax credits annually for 10 years.

Crowell also questioned the need to move Missouri's primary.

"I have had no one in Southeast Missouri contact me and say, 'My God, we've got to move the presidential primary. If you don't move the presidential primary, it's going to be the end of the world,'" he said.

Supporters of the proposal say it must be done to comply with guidelines from the Republican and Democratic national parties.

Crowell received some support from Sen. Tim Green, D-Florissant, during the three-hours he held the floor.

"You're not trying to be an obstructionist -- you're trying to get some answers," Green said.

The senate will reconvene at 10 a.m. today. A live audio broadcast is available online at


Pertinent address:

Jefferson City, MO

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