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House endorses health care compact

The Missouri House advanced legislation Wednesday that would have the state join a multistate health care compact in an effort to supersede the new federal health care law, reflecting many legislators’ opposition to Congress’ controversial overhaul.

The House voted 103-53 to give first-round approval to the measure, but whether it could override federal policy is questionable. At least one other state would have to join the compact and the agreement would have to be approved by Congress.

Sponsoring Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, said the measure isn’t an alternative health care reform law, but rather “government reform.” He said state legislatures should govern health care policy because they better understand the needs of their constituents.

“I believe that something as important and intimate as health care policy belongs as close to home as possible,” he said. “What I think is wrong is that a mediocre system is forced on all 50 states. This would bill would return the authority to the states to take back the reins of government.”

Burlison said the central aim of a multistate compact would be to exempt those states’ residents from a federal requirement that they own health insurance. Burlison said Missouri residents rejected that requirement in August, when 71 percent of voters cast ballots in favor of a ballot measure asserting that people cannot be compelled to have health insurance.

Some Democrats said that if Missouri joins the compact — and the federal government allows its creation — the state could end up losing parts of the federal law that consumers favor, such as requiring insurance policies to cover certain procedures aimed at preventing disease.

Rep. Margo McNeil, D-St. Louis County, said the compact would allow states to receive federal health care money without having to abide by the legislative intent attached to those funds.

“This bill basically says, ’Give us the money and we’ll do whatever we want with it,’” she said.

Burlison said he could not predict what decisions future legislatures would make with regard to health care policy.

The House must vote once more on the compact legislation before it could go to the Senate, where Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, has sponsored similar legislation.

Bill could revive printing of state manual

The Missouri “Blue Book” could be spared from becoming an online-only publication.

Budget-cutting legislation enacted last year did away with the requirement to print paper copies of the Official Manual of the State of Missouri, which is published every two years.

But a House committee heard testimony Thursday on legislation allowing the secretary of state to enter into an agreement with a nonprofit organization to print and distribute copies of the book. The Missouri Press Foundation is interested in that role.

The books historically have been free to the public. The secretary of state’s office says it could cost between $15 and $30 to buy a copy of the Blue Book under the proposed arrangement.

House, Senate pass differing election bills

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri House and Senate have both approved legislation changing the date of the 2012 presidential primaries, but they disagree on what the new date should be.

Under existing state law, the 2012 primaries would be held Feb. 7.

A bill passed by the House on Thursday would move the primary to March 6, in keeping with rules set by the national Democratic and Republican parties.

But the Senate’s version sets Missouri’s primary at one week after New Hampshire’s, which occurs early in the presidential election year. New Hampshire’s date for 2012 is not yet set.

The Senate bill was also approved Thursday. Critics in the chamber have said the parties could strip Missouri of some convention delegates unless it holds its primary in March.

Lawmakers want Noranda power cost tied to jobs

The price one company pays for electricity in Missouri could be tied to the number of jobs it supports in the state under legislation being filed Thursday.

Tennessee-based Noranda Aluminum has about 900 workers at smelting facility in New Madrid. It pays less for electricity than residential customers under an exception in state law.

Jefferson City Republican Jay Barnes said Wednesday that a bill he’s sponsoring would let Noranda keep its rate if it employs 200 people in Missouri.

If Noranda employed fewer people than that, it would have to pay a rebate to residential customers.

Barnes says the company’s special electric rate is similar to tax credit: the company saves on an expense, but in exchange he says it must help the state’s economy.

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