Wednesday, August 24, 2011
The agenda for Missouri’s not-so-special legislative session is expanding.
Gov. Jay Nixon has summoned legislators to return to the Capitol on Sept. 6 to tackle unfinished business, as well as business he deemed did not pass muster.
The call for a special session originated in July to discuss economic development issues, which — in this case — will be horse trading with tax incentives.
Expect debate to create some new tax credits — to attract high-tech jobs and elevate the airport in St. Louis to an international trading hub — in exchange for eliminating others. Existing tax breaks that could fall on the cutting-room floor pertain to renovators of historic buildings, developers of low-income housing and low-income seniors and disabled residents who rent.
Tax credits have been kicked around Capitol hallways for years. In the summer of 2010, Nixon moved forward by naming a tax credit review panel that reported its recommendations to lawmakers before they convened this January. The 18-week regular session, apparently, did not afford enough time to achieve consensus.
Also unresolved when the session ended was a proposal to authorize St. Louis officials to control their police force. That piece of unfinished business also has been added to the September agenda.
Lawmakers also will consider moving Missouri’s presidential primary from February to March to suit the desires of the national Republican and Democratic parties.
That change was part of a broader elections bill approved by lawmakers during the regular session, but vetoed by Nixon because it contained other provisions he — and we — found onerous.
Absent from the special session will be discussion about how to pay for damages caused by natural disasters, including the Joplin tornado and flooding.
Although opinions on the method of payment vary, the prevailing sentiment is to postpone that debate until damage assessments are completed.
We are disappointed that special sessions are becoming increasingly more routine.
A special session, we believe, is designed to consider new, pressing issues, not to mop up old, unfinished business at taxpayer expense.
Lawmakers must learn to plan, prioritize and finish their work on behalf of Missourians in the session’s allotted time.
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