JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - With less than six weeks left in the annual session, a gun-control bill has received its first hearing by a Missouri legislative committee.
The Senate General Laws heard testimony Tuesday on a bill requiring parents to notify their child's school if they own a firearm. It would also create crimes for improperly storing a firearm and for a parent failing to stop their child from possessing an illegal weapon.
The Republican-led committee did not take a vote and is unlikely to take action on the legislation in its current form.
Sponsoring Democratic Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, of University City, says it would help urban areas cope with juvenile gang violence. Opponents say the bill would infringe on gun rights and would not solve illegal firearm possession.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri House has passed a nearly $25 billion budget that would fund modest increases for public education but not the Medicaid expansion sought by Gov. Jay Nixon.
House approval of the budget Thursday sends it to the Senate, where more changes are likely.
The 2014 budget plan would provide a roughly 2 percent increase in basic aid for public K-12 schools, colleges and universities. But school funding would still fall $620 million short of what's called for under a state formula.
Missouri's Tourism Division would get one of the largest percentage increases in the budget - from nearly $14 million this year to almost $20 million next year.
The budget leaves out more than $900 million of federal funds that Nixon had recommended for a Medicaid expansion.
The non-binding blueprint passed by a near party line, 50-49 vote. It calls for almost $1 trillion in tax increases over the coming decade while sheltering safety net programs. The House version only envisions spending cuts to balance the budget.
The Democratic plan also proposes to reverse automatic spending cuts that are beginning to strike both the Pentagon and domestic programs.
President Barack Obama's long-overdue budget is scheduled to be released March 8.
The Senate began debate Tuesday on legislation that would ask voters to approve a dedicated sales tax for highways and other transportation needs. But some senators expressed concern that the money would go straight to the Department of Transportation without need of legislative approval in the budget process.
The sales tax is estimated to raise nearly $8 billion over 10 years. Ten percent of the proceeds would go to local transportation needs. The tax would be resubmitted to voters after 10 years for potential renewal.
When the increased sales tax is in effect, the gas tax rate would be frozen and existing roads could not become toll roads.
Several disabled renters testified Tuesday that the tax break of up to $750 annually allows them to pay medical bills, utilities and clothing. They pleaded with the Senate Appropriations Committee to keep the tax break.
But the committee voted to advance a bill that would do away with the tax credit and redirect the $57 million of savings to programs that serve seniors and the disabled. The plan is backed by Gov. Jay Nixon.
A commission Nixon appointed recommended ending the tax break for renters while continuing it for homeowners. The credit is intended offset property taxes.
The Senate's 27-7 vote Thursday sends the bill to the House, where it already faces some opposition.
House Speaker Tim Jones has said senators "over-reached" by significantly lowering the amount of tax credits available for the construction of low-income housing and the renovation of historic buildings. But Jones likes provisions in the Senate bill that create new tax credits for air cargo exports, computer data centers and investors in high-tech, start-up businesses.
Gov. Jay Nixon praised the bill Thursday for containing "long-overdue reforms" to tax credits.
A similar proposal to overhaul Missouri's tax credits failed during a 2011 special session.
In a 34-21 vote, lawmakers approved a measure to lift a state ban on same-sex marriage. The bill now moves to the House, where Democrats also hold a majority.
The Valentine's Day vote came amid concerns from Republicans that the bill would force religious organizations to allow same-sex marriage ceremonies in their fellowship halls, parish centers or even in their sanctuaries. Bishops in Illinois, led by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, also have said they oppose the idea as against the "natural order."
Gov. Pat Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, has said he will sign the bill if the House approves it.
Instead of making the hard choices to fix Social Security's financial problems, policymakers "use it as a tool of political rhetoric," Astrue said.
Astrue, 56, has headed the federal government's largest program since 2006 — he was nominated by former President George W. Bush. By law, Social Security commissioners serve six-year terms, so President Barack Obama will now have the opportunity to choose his own nominee, who must be approved by the Senate. Astrue's last day on the job was Wednesday.
The trustees who oversee Social Security say the program's trust funds will run dry in 2033, leaving Social Security with only enough revenue to pay about 75 percent of benefits. Already the program is paying out more in benefits than it collects in payroll taxes.
As commissioner, Astrue served as a trustee. He regularly urged Congress to address Social Security's long-term financial problems but refrained from publicly weighing in on various options to cut benefits or raise taxes — until now.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Astrue said benefit cuts and tax increases are inevitable — despite fierce opposition to both. Yet he questions whether Congress is up to the task.