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PSN on May 31, 2007 - 7:40am
Not much good - and a few quite bad bits of legislation - came out of the right-wing-dominated Missouri legislature working with the state's Governor Matt Blunt.
A "new" reconfigured state Medicaid system, now called HealthNet, was approved, yet the bill failed to restore health care to most of the 100,000 low-income families kicked out of Medicaid two years ago. Despite a few reforms and passage of HB818, which included a few health care tax credits and expanded access to high-risk health insurance, Missouri did little to help the state's 700,000 uninsured.
The other signature bill of the session was a financial raid on the state student loan agency, the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MOHELA), to sell-off $355 million in loan assets to pay for campus construction funds, yet even there right-wing forces blocked a new health sciences center at the University of Missouri-Columbia in the name of preventing stem cell research.
Right-wing social activists scored additional victories with anti-abortion bills that imposed such punitive and costly new equipment requirements on abortion clinics that two out of the three clinics in the state will probably have to close. People affiliated with abortion clinics were also banned from teaching sex education classes and communities were encouraged to offer abstinence-only sex education.
On the tax front, some Missourians over age 62 will now be able to deduct Social Security and other public pension income from state income taxes, a $154 million tax cut benefiting mostly wealthier seniors since most seniors already pay no taxes on such benefits.
The state also allowed telephone companies to bypass state franchising authorities to offer video services in competition with cable companies, but included very weak buildout requirements to ensure universal access.
The best that can be said about the session was that the legislators defeated some other terrible bills, including blocking a school voucher plan, defeating a proposal to gut the state's prevailing wage law, and failing to pass a bill that would have ended cost-of-living inflation adjustments overall and cut wages for tipped workers under the state minimum wage law approved by voters last fall.