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Gubernatorial candidates in Missouri are fighting over who can cut the size of government the most. Republican candidate Matt Blunt proposed putting a freeze on government cell phone and non-emergency vehicle purchases, eliminating the state’s Washington lobbying office, and consolidating over a thousand information technology jobs. Claire McCaskill, contender for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, offered 600 audits for the state government and advocated changes to the state’s Medicare program. Incumbent Democratic Governor Bob Holden claimed that he cut government a significant amount during his first term, but he also proposed “higher taxes on tobacco, casinos and the wealthy and the elimination of ‘tax loopholes.’” (AP 3/4/04) Blunt went the furthest towards shrinking government by proposing an end to collective bargaining rights for public employees. McCaskill, on the other hand, promised to give out pay raises.
On Tuesday, March 2, the Missouri House of Representatives spent almost five hours on a bill reforming medical malpractice lawsuits. The bill would limit where lawsuits can be filed and the amount that can be awarded. Non-economic damages were originally capped in the state at $350,000 by a 1986 law, but the inflation adjustment built into the legislation caused that cap to rise to $565,000. This bill, after being amended by Republican lawmakers, caps non-economic damages at $350,000 without an inflation adjustment. (AP 3/3/04) Dr. Curtis Cox, the only neurosurgeon in the state capital of Jefferson City, testified at a news conference that premiums are rising 100 percent a year. This is partially due to a Missouri Supreme Court decision that allowed judges to multiply the effects of negligence, creating awards that were larger than insurance companies predicted. Missouri is now on the American Medical Association’s list of 19 liability crisis states. (Kansas City Star, 3/07/04)
Republican State Senator Anita Yeckel is sponsoring a bill to repeal the constitutional prohibition on state funding of religious schools. The prohibition, called a “Blaine Amendment,” was adopted by 37 states. Critics of the amendment contend that it is rooted in anti-Catholic bigotry. St. Louis schools now spend over $11,000 per pupil, but there has been little increase in the quality of education. (2/24/04)