Nixon wrapping up action on Missouri legislation

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is wrapping up action on legislation passed earlier this year by state lawmakers, signing measures Friday that require periodic reviews of state regulations and repealing old programs.

Nixon, a Democrat, called the measures “good government” bills that would help state government operated more efficiently.

The legislation “will help keep Missouri on that same track by requiring regular review of administrative rules, and by cleaning up our statutes through the removal of laws that pertain to obsolete programs,” Nixon said.

Under the newly approved measure, state agencies would need to review their rules every five years starting in 2015. The review would include an analysis of whether a rule overlaps with any others, whether there is a less restrictive alternative and whether the rule continues to be necessary. Another measure signed by Nixon eliminates unfunded and obsolete state government programs.

Sen. Bob Dixon, who sponsored the Senate’s version of the administrative rules legislation, said controlling the regulations developed by state agencies will help small businesses and boost economic development.

“This bill requires an unelected bureaucracy to keep its house in order,” said Dixon, R-Springfield. “This legislation injects necessary discipline into the regulatory process, forcing state agencies to look back at what they have written.”

Only one bill now remains on the governor’s desk — a broad measure dealing with Missouri’s judiciary that includes reducing the disparity in prison sentences between people convicted of crack and powder cocaine offenses.

The governor’s office did not mention the judiciary bill when it announced the signing of the other measures Friday. However, Nixon said during a news conference Thursday at the state Capitol that he was announcing his final vetoes for the year. Bills that are not signed or vetoed by Saturday automatically take effect without the governor’s signature — something Nixon has allowed each of the past two years with abortion bills.

Proposed changes in the drug laws would lower Missouri’s 75-to-1 ratio in sentencing for the two different types of cocaine to a ratio of about 18-to-1. Federal drug laws in 2010 were changed to more closely align prison sentences for crack and powder cocaine, and a national group that advocates for criminal justice reforms last year urged more than a dozen states to eliminate sentencing disparities.

Currently, a person convicted in Missouri of producing, distributing or possessing more than 2 grams of crack faces the same prison sentence as someone convicted of a similar offense involving more than 150 grams of powder cocaine. Someone with at least 6 grams of crack faces the same penalty as a person with at least 450 grams of powder.

A bill approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature on the final day of the legislative session would narrow the difference. Instead, people convicted of having more than 8 grams of crack would face the same punishment as those with at least 150 grams of powder cocaine. And those with at least 24 grams of crack would face the same prison sentence as those with at least 450 grams of powder

Republican and Democratic lawmakers had praised the changes for sentencing in the drug crimes.

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Administrative rules is SB469 and HB1135

Eliminating programs is HB1608

Drug disparity is SB628

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Online:

Nixon: http://www.gov.mo.gov

Legislature: http://www.moga.mo.gov

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