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Covering state lawmakers, bills, and policy emerging from Jefferson City.

Week 5 of Missouri’s 2018 session could see first bill sent to Greitens, and first to be blocked

Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri lawmakers continue to work on several bills, including one that could result in the first filibuster of the 2018 legislative session.

A bill sponsored by State Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, would ban participation in the federal program formerly known as food stamps, now called SNAP, for heads of households able to work but who choose not to. Food benefits would also be cut off to dependents living with that individual, including children.

Specifically, a recipient would lose SNAP benefits for three months the first time he or she is found to be noncompliant. The second time would result in losing benefits for six months, and the third time would result in losing them permanently. A third offense would also result in children and others in the household losing SNAP benefits for six months.

Minority Floor Leader Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors, said they’re negotiating with Republicans to make the bill less strict, otherwise, they’re going to block it.

“Who are you going to blame for somebody that can’t find a job because they don’t have transportation to get to it, or they don’t have the means,” she told reporters Thursday. “These folks (are) caught in a cycle when we pass laws that say ‘you can’t get help if you don’t have a job, you can’t get a job if you don’t have a car to get to that job,’ and it goes on and on.”

Sen. Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors
Credit File photo | Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio
Sen. Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors

  She added, “It’s a vicious cycle, and I don’t know how we end it, but we certainly don’t help the matter by reducing the benefits for folks who need them for their kids.”

Sater defended the bill before reporters Thursday: “There are plenty of jobs now.”

Next week could also see the first bill of 2018 reach Gov. Eric Greitens’ desk. It would require posters with anti-human trafficking information to be posted at airports, bus stations, and any business or areas with a record of prostitution. The bill overwhelmingly passed the Missouri House last week and is now in the Senate’s hands. If it’s passed without any amendments it goes to the governor. Any changes would send it back to the House.

Negotiations continue in the Senate on a proposal to ban most gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers and statewide elected officials. Most of the bill’s opponents say they prefer the current system, which allows gifts but also requires them to be reported to the state’s ethics commission. Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said the measure could be voted out of committee in the next week or two.

“Our members are more worried about the ‘gotcha’ effects of some of those bills – they have this language in them about a gift ban, and there’s unintended consequences, and somebody does something they didn’t know they weren’t supposed to do, and all of a sudden somebody’s after them for it,” he said. “We’re just trying to get clarity and make sure the perception of the public matches what I believe actually happens – there aren’t people here getting bajillion dollars of gifts every day.”

Also, the House budget committee next week will begin hearing funding requests from state agencies for next year. On Monday, Greitens unveiled a $28.8 billion spending plan for the next fiscal year that begins July 1, which includes a proposed $68 million cut to higher education.

Follow Marshall on Twitter:@MarshallGReport

Copyright 2018 St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Public Radio State House Reporter Marshall Griffin is a native of Mississippi and proud alumnus of Ole Miss (welcome to the SEC, Mizzou!). He has been in radio for over 20 years, starting out as a deejay. His big break in news came when the first President Bush ordered the invasion of Panama in 1989. Marshall was working the graveyard shift at a rock station, and began ripping news bulletins off an old AP teletype and reading updates between songs. From there on, his radio career turned toward news reporting and anchoring. In 1999, he became the capital bureau chief for Florida's Radio Networks, and in 2003 he became News Director at WFSU-FM/Florida Public Radio. During his time in Tallahassee he covered seven legislative sessions, Governor Jeb Bush's administration, four hurricanes, the Terri Schiavo saga, and the 2000 presidential recount. Before coming to Missouri, he enjoyed a brief stint in the Blue Ridge Mountains, reporting and anchoring for WWNC-AM in Asheville, North Carolina. Marshall lives in Jefferson City with his wife, Julie, their dogs, Max and Liberty Belle, and their cat, Honey.