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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri senators have passed legislation scaling back tax breaks for developers and offering new incentives for high-tech businesses and world trade.

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.
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri House Republicans have given a resounding `no' to Democratic plans to expand Medicaid.

Two separate House committees rejected the plan Monday. One shot down an attempt to add funding for a Medicaid expansion to the 2014 budget. Another panel defeated legislation that would have authorized the expansion of Medicaid coverage to an estimated 260,000 lower-income adults.

Both committees voted along party lines, with Republicans opposing the Medicaid expansion and Democrats supporting it. More than 30 people representing health care, business and social services groups testified in support of the proposed expansion.

The Medicaid expansion is called for by President Barack Obama's health care law and supported by Gov. Jay Nixon.

House Republicans are working on an alternative that may include a more modest expansion combined with cost-savings measures.
Published in Local News
POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. (AP) -- Democratic Party leaders from southeast Missouri picked state Rep. Steve Hodges on Saturday to run in a special election to replace resigned U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson in the GOP-leaning 8th District.

The Southeast Missourian reported that he earned 39 votes during his party's meeting in Poplar Bluff. De Soto funeral home director Todd Mahn got 27 votes, and former Blodgett mayor Markel Fitchpatrick earned only two votes.

Hodges, 64, of East Prairie, is a former grocery store owner and high school sports referee who spent a dozen years on a local school board and first won election to the Missouri House in 2006. Only after other likely candidates bowed out did he belatedly enter the race Wednesday night to run in a June 4 special election against Republican state Rep. Jason Smith, who was nominated by his party last weekend.

In accepting the nomination, Hodges recalled his son Andrew's valedictorian address at West Point. "He said opportunities sometimes only come along once in your life," Hodges said. "And he said it's your choice to decide whether to accept that opportunity or let it pass. I thought about it a great deal for several days this week and I thought I think God is presenting this as an opportunity for me. So I need to decide whether this is something I should take advantage of or let pass by because it's not going to happen again."

Missouri's 8th District stretches across 30 counties, from the outer suburbs of St. Louis south to the agricultural-base of the Missouri Bootheel and west to the rolling Ozark hills. The district's residents are the poorest and least educated in Missouri, with a median household income of less than $36,000 and more than 85 percent lacking bachelor's degrees. For 32 years, much of the area had been represented by either Bill Emerson or Jo Ann Emerson, who succeeded her husband after he died in 1996. Jo Ann Emerson resigned Jan. 22 to become president and CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Although of opposite political parties, Hodges praised the Emersons and vowed to continue their legacies of supporting labor and agriculture. He also stressed the need to balance the budget.

Hodges described Smith, the Republican nominee, as a friend and said he hoped to conduct the campaign as friends. "That was the way I was reared," he said. "But in politics as Gov. (Jay) Nixon has said, `There is no second place.' There are only winners and losers, and I hope to give you a winner."

Smith, an attorney, farmer and real estate partner, won a special election to the Missouri House of Representatives in November 2005. Because of term limits, Smith, 32, is now one of the most senior members of the chamber. After serving as majority party whip, his colleagues elected him in January as House speaker pro tem - the No. 2 ranking position.
Published in Local News
VAN BUREN, Mo. (AP) -- Republican Party leaders from southeast Missouri are gathering at a popular river resort to nominate a replacement for former U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson.

An 86-person committee was scheduled to meet Saturday in rural Van Buren to pick one of 10 potential candidates to run in the 8th District. Whoever gets the nod will immediately become the front-runner in a June 4 special in the Republican-leaning district. Democrats will pick their candidate next weekend.

The Missouri congressional seat is one of three vacant in the nation, but it's the only one where party leaders - not voters - are picking the candidates.

Emerson resigned Jan. 22 to lead a national association for rural electric cooperatives. Missouri's 8th District had been represented by either Emerson or her late husband since 1981.
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri House has passed a bill re-instating tax credits for donations to certain charitable organizations.

The House voted 149-2 Thursday to extend until 2019 tax breaks for contributions to food pantries, pregnancy resource centers and child crisis nurseries. Those tax breaks have either expired or will expire during 2013.

Donations to included charities that occur after Jan. 1 of this year would still receive a tax credit.

The legislation also extends the expiration date on incentives for the surviving spouse of a slain public safety officer and for homeowners who make renovations to accommodate people with disabilities.

The measure will head to the Senate, which passed similar legislation last week. Its version extends the incentives, but eliminates a tax break for parents adopting children from out-of-state.
Published in Local News
HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Lawmakers in at least 11 states are looking at plans to restrict the use of drones over their skies amid concerns the unmanned aerial vehicles could be exploited to spy on Americans.

The American Civil Liberties Union says state legislators are proposing various restrictions on the new technology.

The Montana Senate looked at two bills Tuesday that hinder the use of drones, most often associated with overseas wars.

The chamber is preparing to give initial approval to one bill that bans information collected by drones from being used in court. It also would bar local and state government ownership of drones equipped with weapons.

The 10 other states with active legislation are California, Oregon, Texas, Nebraska, Missouri, North Dakota, Florida, Virginia, Maine and Oklahoma.
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri House committee has adopted a measure requiring voters to show photo identification before casting ballots.

The House Elections Committee approved a state constitutional amendment that would ask voters whether to allow the photo ID requirement. The committee also approved a separate bill that would implement the photo identification requirement.

The vote was along party lines, with Republicans saying the photo ID requirement would increases transparency and reduce voter fraud. Democrats said there are no reports of voter impersonation and that the plan could disenfranchise voters.

Currently when Missourians vote, they can show a photo ID or other means of identification such as utility bills or bank statements.

Both measures head to the House Rules Committee for further consideration.
Published in Local News
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