Legislature's perfect storm blows over

Sunday, May 19, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Finally, House Speaker Jim Kreider's overused metaphor comparing the 2002 legislative session to the film "The Perfect Storm" can be laid to rest.

"I think the perfect storm has subsided," Kreider said. "We survived. We lived through it."

Kreider, D-Nixa, used the phrase countless times since the session began in January to describe the monumental financial problems facing the state.

Grappling with increasing spending obligations in the face of declining state revenue consumed the better part of the four-month legislative term.

Lawmakers were forced to make massive cuts to most state agencies and programs, though managed to preserve a $132 million increase for elementary and secondary education.

And despite passing an initially unbalanced $19 billion state budget for the upcoming fiscal year, a patchwork of one-time fund shifts and other creative methods was approved to plug the hole without a tax increase.

In his post session remarks, Gov. Bob Holden praised Democratic leaders in both chambers and Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder of Cape Girardeau and his fellow majority Senate Republicans for their tireless efforts on the budget problem.

Noticeable in her absence from Holden's list of folks deserving credit was House Minority Floor Leader Catherine Hanaway. The Democratic governor blames Hanaway for blocking a plan to use state savings to help fix the budget, forcing him to order deeper cuts.

Hanaway, R-Warson Woods, took the slight in stride and commended Holden for his efforts this session.

"He does keep lobbing a few bombs my way, but part of my job is to be the loyal opposition," Hanaway said. "Loyal meaning that I want what's best for the state. Opposition meaning fighting hard for the positions I believe in."

Will work for veto power

As part of the budget balancing act for the fiscal year ending June 30, Holden ordered 6,000 state workers to be furloughed without pay for two days. Many of those employees, however, will still be expected to work.

Count Holden and his staff among that number. The governor said if rank-and-file workers must take a hit, he should as well.

Hanaway has also pledged to forgo two days of pay.

Ag bill passes

A major agriculture bill sponsored by state Rep. Peter Myers, R-Sikeston, made it to the governor's desk during the session's final day.

The omnibus measure's many provisions include financial incentives for biodiesel production, limits on the percentage of controversial fuel additive MTBE in fuel sold in the state and a fund for the marketing of Missouri-made products.

The bill would also make it a class A misdemeanor to release hogs into the wild. A landowner would be able to legally kill free-roaming swine found on his property.

Second chance for vets

Qualified World War II veterans who missed the deadline to apply for state-issued medals and certificates honoring their service will likely get another chance.

A bill Holden is expected to sign would set a new deadline of July 1, 2003, for the program, which expired Jan. 1.

A separate bill would also expand the number of eligible veterans. Previously, only those who served from Dec. 7, 1941 through Sept. 30, 1945, qualified.

The bill would allow those who served through Dec. 31, 1946, to participate.

The families of deceased veterans would also be able to apply on their relative's behalf.

Once the governor signs the bill, applications will be available through the Missouri National Guard.

Swan song

Several Southeast Missouri lawmakers were among the term-limited legislators doing there last real work in the General Assembly last week.

Though enacted by voters in 1992, term limits are having their first real impact this year with 73 representatives and 12 senators being shown the door.

State Rep. Mark Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff and a former House minority leader, is leaving after 12 years. He is running for the circuit court bench in Butler County.

Assistant Minority Floor Leader Pat Naeger, R-Perryville, departs after eight years. He plans to run for the state Senate in two years when Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, is term limited.

After 14 years, state Rep. David Schwab, R-Jackson, is also on the way out. Schwab is another possible successor to Kinder, but currently has no plans to seek the seat.

Although he could seek another two terms, state Rep. Phillip Britt, D-Kennett, has decided not to seek re-election and is leaving after four years to return to his law practice full time.

The General Assembly will reconvene in September for its annual veto session, but little work of significance is usually done.

All the departing legislators will continue to serve constituent needs until their terms expire in January.


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