STL Post-Dispatch: Missouri lawmakers push lingering priorities over finish line as others fizzle

By Jack Suntrup St. Louis Post-Dispatch May 13, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY • After one last filibuster in the Missouri Senate Thursday night, lawmakers returned to the Capitol Friday to push through lingering priorities before the Legislature adjourned for the year at 6 p.m.

What became the focal point of the final day was a sweeping plan to loosen the state’s gun laws.

The proposal would allow adults without a permit to carry a concealed weapon anyplace where concealed carry is not forbidden. The proposal also would expand the state’s “castle doctrine” allowing homeowners to defend homes with firearms to include home guests and baby sitters.

In addition, the measure institutes a “stand-your-ground” right, allowing people to use deadly force in public places if they believe that a reasonable threat exists.

The measure now heads to Gov. Jay Nixon. Nixon, a Democrat, wouldn’t say at a Friday news conference what he would do. It moved out of both chambers with enough votes to override a veto of the governor — 24-8 in the Senate and 114-36 in the House.

“I’m just going to have to look at it,” he told reporters.

Democrats on the floor of the House and Senate blasted “stand your ground,” saying it would embolden trigger-happy gun owners and lead to more shootings.

Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, said a heavily armed Missouri would take the state back to the 1800s.

“What kind of world do we want to live in?” Holsman said. “Isn’t it our job to make our citizens safe?”

“This law is a shoot first, ask questions later,” added Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, who was among the eight Democrats in the Senate who opposed the expansion.

Republicans dismissed the charges as hype.

“If somebody doesn’t like it, they take it to this absurd extreme and then they try to get out there in the media with it,” said state Sen. Kurt Schaefer of Columbia, a main backer of the legislation, told reporters. “I think all it does is make Missourians safer. I think it gives people their Second Amendment right to protect themselves and their families.

“If you’re going to attack somebody you’ve got to pay the consequences,” said Republican Rep. Galen Higdon of St. Joseph.

Another measure that was sent to the governor’s desk would change Missouri’s police use-of-force rules to become in line with federal case law. If Nixon signs the bill, police would only be able to use deadly force if the officer believes a person poses a serious threat to others.

The Legislature also approved a bill that would exempt yoga and fitness classes from sales taxes, and another measure restricting how cities can hand out lucrative tax-increment financing benefits to developers.

“Across the St. Louis region, billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies have gone to private enterprise and I believe that’s wrong,” said Rep. Andrew Koenig, R-Winchester. “This doesn’t get rid of TIF but kind of puts TIF back in its place” in certain situations.

Though many priorities reached the finish line, some fell victim to the mandatory 6 p.m. adjournment time. A proposal that would set up a statewide regulatory framework for ride-share companies such as Uber and Lyft died under the threat of filibuster in the Senate.

“It is unfortunate the Senate has stifled innovation and consumer choice by stalling a bill that already passed through the House and Conference Committee,” said Alexandra LaManna, spokeswoman for Lyft. “As it stands, Lyft is unable to return to Missouri.”

Two other high-profile proposals that gained some traction early in the legislative session fizzled: a plan to start a prescription drug monitoring database in Missouri died in the Senate and a proposal to boost the state’s gas tax languished in the House.

Two abortion-related bills that grabbed headlines didn’t make it across the finish line, either. One would’ve banned donation of fetal tissue and the other would’ve required two-parent notification when a minor seeks and abortion.

“For this year, women’s reproductive rights were not attacked in terms of legislation making it to the governor’s desk,” said Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights.

“Just because one particular year a particular piece of pro-life legislation doesn’t move across the finish line doesn’t mean life’s not important to us,” said Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City.

Kurt Erickson and Mark Schlinkmann of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report, which contains material from the Associated Press.

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